Belarus Cracks Down On Internet Access
The House of Government, with a statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in front, in Minsk, Belarus.
CREDIT: LHOON/Flickr/Ilmari Karonen/Creative Commons
A new law in Belarus will make it difficult for citizens and residents to visit foreign websites without government supervision, or to do any business on sites not registered in the Eastern European country.
The law, which goes into effect Jan. 6, mandates that all companies and individuals who are registered as entrepreneurs in Belarus use only websites registered under the country's ".by" top-level domain, according to Peter Roudik of Global Legal Monitor, an online legal publication from the United States Library of Congress.
Anyone doing business in Belarus must use a domain ending in ".by" for services, online sales and email exchanges. That effectively makes Amazon online shopping, or Gmail usage, illegal.
Also included in the new law is a provision against unfettered Web surfing at Internet cafes. Any establishment that offers access to foreign websites may be subject to fines or may be shut down if it does not identify, record and report instances of customers accessing foreign websites.
The law extends to private individuals "if they allow other persons to use their home computers for browsing the Internet," Roudik wrote.
The law does not say how this will be enforced, but a commenter posting to an article about the new law on The Next Web said that people will have to present a "passport" to access the Web. It wasn't clear whether that meant a standard international passport, or a special government-issued ID.
"You can only access internet with the passport. That's it," wrote the commenter. "It means to install it home you should be registered at a service provider with a passport. To use it in internet cafe you should show passport. Restaurants, cafes and other public spaces are also obligated to ask the passport from anyone who tries to use Wi-Fi."
Breaking the law carries a fine up to the equivalent of $125 about 50 percent of the average 10-month salary in Belarus, according to The Register.
Under the law, the government is authorized to establish and update a list of banned websites, including pornographic sites and "those that contain information of an extremist nature," which Internet service providers must block.
Belarus is often called the last dictatorship in Europe, and President Aleksandr Lukashenko, in office since 1994, has kept on many of the former Soviet republic's KGB-era repressiveness.