“Independence of mass media in Belarus is impossible”, - such depressing conclusion is given in the report on the freedom of expression of opinions of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus.
Miklós Haraszti, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, evaluated the situation with the freedom of expression of opinions in Belarus. The report of the Special Rapporteur is to be presented on November 29, 2015 at the UN general Assembly.
“As a rule, the UN Special Rapporteur issues two reports a year. One concerns the general situation; the second one is more concentrated on some complex of human rights and freedoms. For example, the former thematic report concerned electoral rights; whereas this one that is to be presented on November 29, 2015 is dedicated to the right for freedom of expression and touches upon such issues as freedom of mass media, freedom of expression online, and freedom of press”, - Aliaksei Kazliuk, the expert of the Legal Transformation Center “Lawtrend”, in the talk with the “EuroBelarus” Information Service.
Aliaksei Kazliuk notes that the report of Haraszti is not a mere compilation and recital of violation of right of expression: “Haraszti has experience in working as an OSCE representative for freedom of media; i.e. freedom of expression is the topic of his professional interest. And, of course, he is competent in it as an expert. Besides, he gets regular reports of Belarusan and international human rights organizations”.
The work of the Special Rapporteur means search for problems that exist and suggestions for the government of how to resolve these problems: “it is according to this scheme that Haraszti is acting; but, unfortunately, Belarusan government isn’t listening to his conclusions and recommendations and doesn’t recognize the warrant of the Special Rapporteur”. Let us note that it is up to now that Haraszti is prohibited to enter Belarus.
“Assessing the situation in complex, Haraszti is talking about the presence of the system that suppresses rights for self-expression in Belarus. Considering that it has been under construction for more than 20 years, it can be named stable and efficient system of suppressing the freedom of speech in Belarus, starting from total control over the state mass media and ending with the pressure on independent media. This is expressed in limitation of possibility of economic action of these media and in limitation of their maintenance”, - Aliaksei Kazliuk says.
The lawyer notes that in this report Miklós Haraszti noted particular attention “to the problem that first revealed itself this year after the adopted number of changes to the law on media in December 2014 and other normative documents that limit the freedom of expression in the Internet”.
“The problem of blocking websites and limiting information on websites. The Special Rapporteur honestly says that the last stronghold of freedom of expression – Internet – is now subject to serious limitations on the part of the state, - says Aliaksei Kazliuk. – The year of 2015 is the time of crackdown in the Internet. Everything that was before that, for example, in 2010 is just approaches and attempts to reach the freedom of speech in the Internet. But all these attempts can in no way be compared to what the Belarusan society got now. Perhaps in practice it doesn’t look completely horrible, but this is, probably, just because there have been no serious public shocks, when all innovations in this sphere can be and will be used by the state. The mechanisms of suppressing freedom in the Internet themselves are prescribed by the law and will be working; sooner or later they will be turned on. We witnessed that even before the law was introduced – let’s remember the notorious blockings of websites during the new-year’s devaluation. Now from the point of view of the state, these actions can be performed absolutely legally”.
The lawyer of “Lawtrend” notes that Miklós Haraszti has detailed recommendations for amending the situation, while the competence of the Special Rapporteur is such that “we can take the report and put the situation to the norm”. “But let’s be realists; we will hardly see the realization of these recommendations in our country in the near future,” – says Aliaksei Kazliuk.
In conclusion Aliaksei Kazliuk emphasizes: “The report of Miklós Haraszti contains consistent position. And we value that, as, unfortunately, we see somewhat different approach to it on the part of other international actors. For example, the approach of Andrea Rigoni, rapporteur of the PACE's Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy – his report isn’t presented yet; it only exists as a draft now. But we cannot wait to see it and hope that the assessments of PACE rapporteur won’t be different from the facts that are gathered by the Belarusan human rights defendants and that form the basis for international structures, including the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus. While Miklós Haraszti uses these facts very consistently and gives evaluation that doesn’t depend on the current political situation, we cannot really be sure that the documents of PACE Special Rapporteur will have the same information. We have two special rapporteurs, one of whom is constantly preparing objective reports but is banned of entering the EU; the other happens to be in Belarus, meets officials and deputies, discusses something with them and tells something to human rights fighters in the lobby, but prepared no official document yet. We can only hope that Rigoni will be coordinating and correlating his assessments with the facts provided by the Belarusan human rights fighters and that are noted in the documents prepared by Miklós Haraszti”.