The deputy head of the Operational and Analytical Centre under the Aegis of Lukashenka (OAC) and the owner of TUT.by Internet portal demonstrated the level of free speech in Belarus at the OSCE conference.
The conference “Internet 2013 – Shaping policies to advance media free” is being held in Vienna on February 14-15.
Besides the official Belarusian delegation to the OSCE, charter97.org editor-in-chief Natallia Radzina, deputy head of the Operational and Analytical Centre under the Aegis of Lukashenka Uladzimir Rabavolau, TUT.BY portal owner Yury Zisser and Internet researcher Mikhail Darashevich were invited.
As charter97.org website has learnt, the OSCE invited only Natallia Radzina and Mikhail Darashevich, but Uladzimir Rabavolau and Yury Zisser were invited on recommendation of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The official media said before the conference that Belarus is represented only by the latter two, emphasising that the main chastener of the Internet, the OAC, is the “independent Internet regulator” and Yury Zisseris a representative of the civil society that takes part in discussions on Internet “regulation”.
The OAC deputy head participated in the discussion “The Multi-Stakeholder Approach to Internet Governance”. Speaking in a propagandistic manner, he said “the right to access to information is guaranteed by the Constitution”, “Belarus doesn't restrict the freedom of expression”, “we have no natural resources, so intellectual potential is very important for us”, “we want to get into top the 30 countries with the most developed Internet technologies”. He noted the monopoly of Beltelecom Internet service provider hindered the OAC, but this problem would be solved soon. Rabavolau noted the cancellation of passport identification of users in Internet cafés was the special merit of official Minsk in securing the right to access to information.
As for the blacklists that include pro-opposition resources, among them charter97.org, the websites Belorusski Partizan and Viasna human rights centre and even blogs, Rabavolau said: “The state has the right to decide what people should do in governmental bodies. They mustn't read Charter'97 website, but work.” He said the state regulates the Internet also because it creates the national legislation.
Editor-in-chief of charter97.org Natallia Radzina took the floor after Uladzimir Rabavolau. She explained to the audience how Lukashenka's decree on Internet regulation really worked in Belarus.
The journalist noted that the OAC is a security agency founded for censorship on the Internet, which is becoming more and more dangerous for the regime for inability to censor content and the growing audience of independent websites. “Even their coat of arms looks like that of the KGB. Their former chief heads the KGB today,” the journalist noted.
According to the decree of the Belarusian dictator, ISPs register users and keep information about the services rendered to them. The OAC made a list of websites that cannot be opened in governmental agencies.
“As most economic sectors are state-owned in Belarus, independent website lose large audience as a result of the decree. In 2010, when the decree was adopted, charter97.org was put on the blacklist, website founder Aleh Byabenin was killed, there were two raids on the website office, equipment was seized and journalists, including me, were arrested. The OAC representative now boasts to the OSCE that passport control in Internet cafés was cancelled. What a great progress! What can he say about journalists Iryna Khalip and Andrzej Poczobut, who were sentenced to restriction of liberty? When will the death of Aleh Byabenin, Dzmitry Zavadski and Veronika Cherkasova be investigated? Where is your 'freedom of expression', if the country has no independent television, radio and almost no independent newspapers? You don't have answers. Don't go there or be silent and don't tell this blatant lie,” Radzina said to Rabavolau.
The journalist emphasised the second important aspect: under Lukashenka's decree, websites of Belarusian firms and enterprises are not allowed to have hosting abroad.
“Why did the MFA recommend to invite Yury Zisser to the conference? Why is he always seen together with the OAC representative? It is because he owns the biggest hosting company in Belarus and the decree gave him super profits. That is why this businessman says the decree on Internet censorship was adopted after consultations with the civil society. It was an ordinary corruption deal, a deal between the government and a businessman,” Natallia Radzina said.
Yury Zisser's reaction to the speech of the charter97.org editor shocked participants of the session, among them representatives of MFAs of the EU member states and the US Department of State. The businessman shouted: “I will put you in jail for [the words about] corruption! Don't return to Belarus!”
Uladzimir Rabavolau, the deputy head of the Operational and Analytical Centre under the Aegis of Lukashenka
How blocked access to charter97.org in government bodies looks