Internet Censorship in the Authoritarian Belarus
To be precise, the Belarusian officials have not yet approved the introduction of additional measures to regulate Internet in Belarus. However, Belarusian independent media have published a realistic draft of the document and the document has been discussed by the government.
Introduction of this new regulation would give the regime in Minsk additional instruments to regulate the last area of free speech in the country, which the Internet indeed is. The number of internet users in Belarus is relatively high (the official number is over three millions). In fact, an average Belarusian internet user is generally not too interested in politics and opposition websites, but nevertheless the potential auditorium for on-line oppositional media is quite significant.
Another question is whether the officials would actually use the instruments for real repressions, which may seem less likely considering the closer ties with EU. Still, self-censorship has become a common practice in the Belarusian information sphere. Knowing that one is being identified and traced by officials, both readers and writers will be much more cautious and less willing to risk being sanctioned for viewing websites criticizing the regime. This is the sad reality of a European country, just 2 hours flight away from Berlin, in the early 21st century.
The authoritarian Belarus is introducing censorship on the Internet in the coming days, about a year before the presidential election. In the future, websites and Internet users would be strictly controlled by the government and a special unit of the Presidential Administration.
The Moscow newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported it on Monday. Labeled by human rights activists as Europe’s last dictator, President Aliaksandr Lukašenka has previously been criticizing “anarchy on the Internet”. In early 2011 presidential elections are scheduled to take place in the former Soviet republic, where Lukašenka wants to win again.
The Internet has so far been the last place to express independent opinion in Belarus. The opposition is afraid to stay without media access during the upcoming elections. The government in Minsk’s had further tightened the already strict media laws this year. In Belarus, Lukašenka’s chief ideologist Aleh Praliaskoŭski has recently been appointed as media minister.
Belarus’ Efforts to Reduce CO2 Footprint Found Little Support
The international community showed little interest in the Belarus-initiated amendment to the Kyoto Protocol at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
The amendment would enable Belarus to participate in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development mechanism – Belarus’ main mechanism of international technology financing which provides carbon dioxide low emission. The document needs to be ratified by 75% of Parties (or 132 countries) to enter into force. The Belarusian amendment has been ratified only by 18 countries so far.
Belarus hopes that the new agreement will help create mechanisms of the fair distribution of available financial resources and improve the terms of transfer of advanced technologies to mitigate the climate change and adapt to it.
At the second conference of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol, Belarus voluntarily undertook extra obligations to reduce the carbon footprint, but its inability to access to flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol puts it at a disadvantage in comparison with other Annex I countries.
By 2020 Belarus plans to reduce the greenhouse emissions by 600 million tons in the CO2 equivalent. Its contribution to reducing greenhouse emissions includes re-swamping degraded peat bogs. The country is also financing the research into the wind potential of some 30 areas.
Alexander Grebenkov, a climate change expert, said that “[f]rom 1995 to 2008 Belarus reduced the greenhouse gas emissions by 134 million tons in the CO2 equivalent. From 2008 till 2010 we are going to cut the emissions by another 600 million tons.” The cuts of greenhouse gas emissions could be bigger if the country got access to the new technologies and mechanisms within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol.
Belarus acceded to the Kyoto Protocol in 2005, and the amendment was negotiated at the November 2006 meeting of parties. Minsk reiterated its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions past 2012 by undertaking obligations adequate to its capabilities at the 2009 climate change summit.
Read more about Belarus’ plans to reduce the greenhouse emissions at REVE.