Republic of Belarus makes accessing foreign sites illegal

by Tineka Smith| 09 January 2012

A new Belarusian law that was passed in November and announced last month makes accessing foreign sites a crime in Belarus.

Citizens and residents of Belarus are restricted to visit and use foreign websites and any violations of these rules will be counted as a misdemeanour accompanied by fines according the Republic of Belarus published Law No. 317-3.

The law puts companies and persons registered as entrepreneurs in a tricky situation as they are only allowed to use domestic internet domains for conducting sale transactions, email exchanges, and providing online services. This means that any businesses whose income is largely foreign based is going to have to jump ship or sink.

The law basically will shut Belarus off completely from the outside world in terms of internet. Businesses outside of Belarus cannot grant requests since they use online services located outside of the country.

The law also states that private individuals can be punished if another person uses their home computer for browsing the internet and goes on a foreign site.

Any online retailers, no matter how well established, will technically be committing illegal acts if transactions are put through from Belarus citizens or residents. The Belarusian Attorney General can claim that national law is being violated and can sue. Some commentators predict measures will be taken against this by websites blocking access from Belarus entirely.

Victory Square, Minsk

The Republic of Belarus Embassy in the UK told CBR:

"The purpose of this document is to protect the rights of Belarusian citizens, the society and the state in the field of information, to improve the quality of Internet services and make them cheaper, and to encourage further growth of the national segment of the Internet network. It is for the first time that an item of legislation contains requirements designed to make the information about state bodies and other state institutions more accessible.

"For this, the Decree prescribes that government bodies and other governmental institutions as well as businesses in which the state has a majority stake make sure that information about their work is available at their websites and that their websites function properly and updated regularly. As a result, Internet users will have a free access to the information about the work of a given state institution (other organization), its postal address, phone numbers, the procedure of processing people's claims and requests, administrative procedures, etc."

The effect of the complete foreign internet shutout will have on the Belarusian economy, people, and culture remains to be seen.

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