Amendments to media law could 'further restrict press in Belarus", according to the OSCE
In a joint statement on 18th June 2018, international civil society organisations issued a letter to the UN Human Rights Council, urging the organisation to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur for Belarus. The statement declared that since the creation of the mandate, "there has been no systematic improvement in the human rights situation in Belarus". The organisations also reinforced the importance of the Special Rapporteur work in the country as "Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe and (...) the Special Rapporteur remains the only independent international mechanism to effectively monitor human rights violations in Belarus and a critical tool for international oversight over the situation on the ground".
OSCE Representative on Media Freedom, Harlem Désir, expressed concern after the Belarusian authorities amended the legal framework regulating the activity of media outlets. According to Désir, the new amendments will have an even more restrictive effect for national media, internet resources, and foreign media outlets. The amendment to the law “on the mass media”, was adopted on 14th June, 2018 by the National Assembly of Belarus. The new regulation includes a general ban on foreigners, foreign legal entities, and Belarusian entities with at least a 20 percent stock belonging to foreign or international entities, as well as stateless persons, establishing media outlets in the country. It also provides the Ministry of Information with strict control over all online resources, without judicial oversight. The OSCE representative stated:
“Many of the provisions are excessive and disproportionate and could result in the curtailing of freedom of expression, including the right of citizens to remain anonymous online.”
On 5th June 2018, a protest took place in front of a new restaurant that opened in Kurapaty, outside Minsk. Protesters also blocked the roads and entrances to the restaurant. Kurapaty is a memorial site to commemorate victims of executions carried out between 1937 to 1941. The restaurant is located at least 50 meters away from the memorial, which is viewed by the protesters as an act of disrespect.
The Belarusian National Platform of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership issued a statement to express concern regarding the opening of the restaurant "next to the historical and cultural place to commemorate the victims of political repression during 1930-1940 in Kurapaty". The statement also pointed out that in 2014, the General Prosecutor's Office concluded that the construction was unauthorized, but at the same time the Ministry of Culture changed the boundaries of the protected area so that they could go ahead with the construction of the restaurant.
Another protest took place in April, 2018 when around 2500 people protested against the construction of a new battery plant by Chinese investors near Brest city. The protesters are of the opinion that the plant can cause severe damage to human health in the future because of lead emissions within a radius of 30 kilometers of the plant.