The Appeal of the Belarusian Association of Journalists in Connection with the Criminal Persecution for Publications in the Internet.
The politician and writer of political essays Andrei Klimau was arrested in Minsk on April, 3. 
Custody was chosen as a restraint.
According to mass media information, the criminal case was brought against A. Klimau on the article 361 p.3 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus ("Appeal for subversion or change of the Constitutional system of the Republic of Belarus, or for accomplishment of crimes against the state, public appeals for violent seizure of power or change of the Constitutional system of the Republic of Belarus, or betrayal to state, or accomplishment of terrorist act or sabotage, or distribution of materials, which contain such appeals... realized with mass media usage").

The reason for criminal persecution was placement in the Internet political essays of Andrei Klimau.

Investigation equaled "World net" to mass media, although this question is not regulated in the Belarusian legislation, -- is said in the appeal of the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The politician is threatened by 5 year imprisonment for publications in the Internet.

Unfortunately, institution of criminal proceedings for statements is common practice in the Republic of Belarus. Thus, Grodno journalists Paval Mazheyka and Mikola Markevich were punished by the imprisonment on Criminal Code, and also the Editor-in-Chief of the "Rabochy" newspaper Viktar Ivashkevich (during the trials the courts brought diametrically opposite decision, whether the Internet may be considered mass media). 

Persecution for freedom of expression and information, guaranteed by the Constitution, discredits Belarus in the eyes of the civilized world. The OSCE representative on freedom issues Miklash Harashti in his report on the results of the visit in 2005 mentioned that Belarus is the only country in the OSCE region, where people are imprisoned because of their statements

The BAJ appeals in the petition to responsible persons and state bodies, within whose scope is making appropriate decisions on April, 10:

-to changerestraint, used against Andrei Klimau;

-to follow generally accepted standards in the field of freedom of expression, when investigating and examining the case, do not allow arbitrary legal treatment of theInternet space;

-    to exclude practice of measures, connected with depriving or limitation of freedom for expression of opinion. 

Adopted on the BAJ Board of  Directors 

10.04.2007 г.

M. Pastuhow: this draft of law is an attempt to limit the public´s access to information. 

12.04.2007 

Today the BAJ lawyers Mihail Pastohow and Andrey Bastunets read for the mass media feedbacks to the new draft of the law "On information, informatization and protection of information", prepared by the specialists of the BAJ center on the media protection. 

"This draft of law is aimed at limitation of a acquisition, usage and distribution of information. It defines a strict control by certain state bodies over the usage and distribution of information", shared his impression with journalists the head of the Center Mihail Pastuhow. - The first question that appeared after getting acquainted with the paper was "Why do the society and state need a law of this nature?" These issues have been already regulated by other laws namely The Law on Press". 

The articles of the law stipulate anything that has to do with information: how one can acquire it, store it, use and distribute it. Information is divided into various types for the state bodies to be able to work with it better. And of course a state division was created that would take responsibility for the information safety, -- was stated at the press conference: 

-- The evident aim of the law is to eliminate from the free flow whole segments of information resources, limit them or claim that the information they provide can´t be distributed at all. Only a small share of information remains publicly available.

According to the BAJ lawyer Yuriy Bastunets what is flaring is the great amount of references to other standard acts. 58 articles contain 109 references to other legal norms. And this creates conditions for regulating issues by other standard acts and not necessarily by laws. At the same time the draft contains minimum of direct-acting legal norms. And those that can act directly aimed at limitation of freedom of information.

The BAJ lawyers had remarks virtually to every article of the draft of law "On information, informatization and protection of information", consideration of which is planned for the current parliamentary session. 

The "main directions of the state policy in the sphere of information, informatization and protection of information", stipulated in article 7, surprised greatly:

"Creation of efficient system of information support, resolution of strategic and operational issues of social and economic, scientific and technical development, insurance of independent and equal existence of the Republic of Belarus on international level. Improvement of mobilization of investments and mechanism of simulation of development and implementation of projects in the sphere of information".

Isn´t it a way too global aim? - wonder the lawyers and stress it out that all the aspects of work with information developed in the similar way.  

It seems that working on the article "Providing information safety to citizens, legal person and state" the interests of citizens and legal person were neglected, -- says Mihail Pastuhow. - The system of state bodies that would regulate the sphere of information is described there. According to the article the president will head this system, on the second place is the Counsil of Ministers, and on the third is the Presidents center of information safety. 

According to the BAJ lawyers the draft of article 15 "Right for information" contradicts the Constitution and international responsibilities taken by Belarus in the sphere of rights for information. "We suggest broadening this article´s content and bringing to conformity with the Constitution," - claimed the specialists of the BAJ center on the media protection. 

Article 16 "Prohibition of abuse of right for information" was criticized as well. According to it information resources should be registered. (No matter how strange it may seem the National Academy of Science is responsible for that.) The article stipulates that any internet information - that means various sites - constitute information resource.

So far non-state information resources are required voluntary registration, but can it turn into compulsory some day? - raised the question at the press conference M. Pastuhow. - Further it is talked about necessity to protect any kind of information. And this protection should measure up to the standards worked out by the President state center of information safety. One will be required to get license for information protection.

In fact this means unlimited control over any information resource, believe lawyers. 

Article 39 says that "a compulsory identification of those who take part in information exchange using information nets can be stipulated". There is danger that information protection can imply that one will define users of information resources including the Internet, explained the lawyers. 

According to the draft all state bodies that have restricted information should create special divisions to control information distribution. In the end article 47 stipulates liability of "information owner". It is clear from the article that they will have to account practically for everything: information placed on a site, content of printed issue etc.

"We directed our feedback to the House of Representatives. We hope that we´ll be invite to discuss the draft of law "On information, informatization and protection of information", however, speaking honestly, we hope this draft won´t be passed as there is no need in it", -- said at the end of the meeting with journalists Doctor of Law Mihail Pastuhow. 

Reporters Without Borders Condemned the Arrest of Andrei Klimau for Publications in the Internet.

23.04.2007

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of writer and political activist Andrei Klimau on 3 April on a charge of "inciting the regime´s overthrow" in an article posted on the Internet in which he was very critical of President Lukashenko and looked at options for changing the political system in Belarus. The organization is also concerned about a parliamentary committee´s bill that could require all online publications to register.  The organization is also concerned about a parliamentary committee´s bill that could require all online publications to register, -- is said on the organization site.

While acknowledging that some of Klimau´s comments were extreme, Reporters Without Borders stresses its opposition to any use of imprisonment as a punishment for the expression of opinions or for press offences.

"This is the first time that an opponent of the Belarusian government has been arrested for an article posted online," the press freedom organization said. "The charge of ‘inciting the regime´s overthrow´ is being used to silence a dissident. Klimau´s arrest highlights the almost total control exercised by the government over information in Belarus."

It should be reminded that according to mass media information Klimau has been charged under criminal code article 361 for the essay he posted on the website of the Union for a Civic Party on 25 January. 

Article 361 punishes any "appeal for subversion or change of the constitutional system of the Republic of Belarus, or for accomplishment of crimes against the state, public appeals for violent seizure of power or change of the constitutional system of the Republic of Belarus, or betrayal to state, or accomplishment of terrorist act or sabotage, or distribution of materials, which contain such appeals realized with mass media usage." 

Klimau faces up to five years imprison for the Internet publications. The organization added: "We also fear that making websites register with the authorities will increase the pressure on independent online public publications, including blogs, and will encourage self-censorship."

The Belarusian press freedom group BAJ held a news conference on 12 April to issue a warning about the parliamentary committee´s proposed law on Information, Information Technology and the Protection of Information, which proposes creating a system for registering all media, including online publications. It has not yet been made clear whether registration will be obligatory or just recommended. 

But such a law is very disturbing in a country such as Belarus, which is on the Reporters Without Borders list of "13 Internet Enemies.

The BAJ Press Service