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Belarus: Internet

Volume 503: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has had discussions with his Belarus counterpart on the regulation of the internet in that country; and if he will make a statement. (310421)

Access to the internet in Belarus is controlled through the monopoly of the national company Beltelkom and strict rules are imposed on owners of internet cafes who are obliged to report when users visit banned websites. We are concerned by recent reports that a new presidential decree would increase control over the internet in advance of the local elections expected this spring and the presidential elections expected early next year. We, and EU colleagues, regularly raise freedom of expression with the Belarusian authorities. Progress in this area would improve the relationship between Belarus and international organisations like the EU, Council of Europe, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. On 7 May 2009, Belarus signed the Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit which stipulates that the

“Partnership will be based on fundamental values .... including democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

This includes the right to a free media.