Belarusians Will Need Passports To Enter Internet Cafes

A Belarusian official says that people will only be allowed to enter Internet cafes with their passports beginning this summer, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Belarusian Communication and Information Minister Mikalay Pantsyaley said at press conference in Minsk that according to a February 1 decree by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, all Belarusians wanting to enter Internet cafes must have a passport starting on July 1.

Pantsyaley said the decree -- which has been criticized by human rights organizations and many Western countries -- obliges Internet cafe owners to identify those who enter cafes.

The decree requires all Internet providers in Belarus to store data on the Internet use of individuals for a full year and to hand that information over to law-enforcement agencies upon request.

It also requires Internet service providers to block access to any website within 24 hours of being asked to do so by government regulators -- a provision that goes beyond antiterrorism security rules imposed under the most restrictive Internet laws in Western countries.

Activists said the "Decree on the Regularization of the Belarusian segment of the Internet" is simply being used to tighten control over the Internet in the country.

The president's official website says the decree is "an attempt to protect the rights of Belarusian citizens, society, and the state in the field of information."


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