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  • The Internet Governance Forum aims to legitimize suppression of free speech

    The Minsk Internet Governance Forum is scheduled for mid-November. It used to be open to all market players, but now only serves to create an illusion of normalcy and validate repression.

    Belarusian Association of Journalists, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Human Constanta, and other activists have issued a statement denouncing the forum.

    The Belaru­sian IGF forum orga­niz­ers say it’s the “biggest open plat­form in the coun­try to dis­cuss impor­tant Inter­net top­ics,” and “every­one can con­tribute to design­ing the agen­da.”


    “In a polit­i­cal cri­sis with exten­sive repres­sions, par­ties can­not have a fruit­ful dia­logue,” reads the joint state­ment from BAJ, Human Con­stan­ta, Belaru­sian Helsin­ki Com­mit­tee, Barys Zvozskau Belaru­sian Human Rights House, Legal Ini­tia­tive, Office for Euro­pean Exper­tise and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions (OEEC) and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions.

    Activists for human rights remind that the forum wasn’t held in 2020–2023 for rea­sons relat­ed to fraud­u­lent elec­tions, when Inter­net access was great­ly lim­it­ed. Fur­ther­more, Hoster.by com­pa­ny, which has been under pres­sure before and is a for­mer affil­i­ate of Tut.by, now coor­di­nates the event.

    “Due to the cur­rent polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Belarus impact­ing cit­i­zens and busi­ness­es, we will not crit­i­cize the event’s nation­al orga­niz­ers,” stat­ed the human rights activists. “Nev­er­the­less, we have ques­tions for the inter­na­tion­al part­ners who have con­firmed their par­tic­i­pa­tion and encour­age them to con­sid­er the wider con­se­quences.”

    Since 2020, the gov­ern­ment has increased its efforts to sup­press online crit­i­cism, result­ing in the block­ing of many inde­pen­dent news sources and label­ing some groups’ online con­tent as “extrem­ist” or “ter­ror­ist.” This has forced sev­er­al media out­lets to shut down or relo­cate abroad.

    “The Forum aims to legit­imize the sup­pres­sion of media free­dom.”

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of BAJ and Human Con­stan­ta believe that the par­tic­i­pa­tion of high-rank­ing for­eign part­ners will con­tribute to this legit­imiza­tion. This will send a clear sig­nal of accept­ing such prac­tice amidst the grow­ing repres­sion in Belarus.

    The state­ment high­lights that advo­cates for human rights endorse the fun­da­men­tal forum prin­ci­ples of being trans­par­ent, acces­si­ble, col­lab­o­ra­tive, and non-com­mer­cial. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in Belarus, hav­ing such dis­cus­sions is present­ly not fea­si­ble.

    “We believe that imi­tat­ing an open forum with inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions’ sup­port is harm­ful. We urge inter­na­tion­al actors not to par­tic­i­pate in the event and espe­cial­ly not to fund fan­cy ban­quets for offi­cials and law enforcers who con­tin­ue to destroy what remains of online free­dom in the coun­try.”

    The state­ment authors request that you write a let­ter, send a post­card and demand free­dom for polit­i­cal pris­on­ers who had upheld the forum’s devel­op­ment as a dia­logue plat­form before the 2020 cri­sis, such as Mary­na Zolata­va, Lud­mi­la Chek­ina, and Nas­ta Loi­ka.

    Read more:

    Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya assures she will persist in seeking support for Belarusian independent media and claims negotiations with YouTube advance significantly

    EU politicians and diplomats, along with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, join Marathon of Solidarity with Imprisoned Journalists

    RSF delivers hundreds of “Postcards for Maryna” to Belarusian embassies in 7 cities, calling for the release of jailed editor Maryna Zolatava

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