Belarusian Internet under siege

I got this from Mikhail, and thought it would be good to re-publish it.

Author: Mikhail Doroshevich

Minsk City Office of Public Prosecutor has instituted legal proceedings on the fact of Internet circulation of animated cartoons “insulting the president”.

According to Sergei Ivanov, chief of the important investigations department of the Office, the legal proceedings are instituted under article 367 of the criminal code (besmirching the honour of President). Those found guilty could face up to five years in prison.

Satirical animated cartoons (in Flash format) for Internet distribution were created by Third Way civil initiative activists and placed at the website.

On August 16, web site administrators Andrei Obuzov and project coordinator Pavel Morozov were interrogated in Minsk for five hours, and Wiktor Bazukiewicz (pseudonym) who is suspected to be the creator of the cartoons was arrested and then released in Grodno.

Belarusian secret police, the KGB carried raids on three apartments in Minsk and Grodno. The KGB confiscated at least 12 computers and material used to produce the cartoons

Pavel Morozov, 26 years old, in his interview for Radio Freedom said the Third Way had been established by a group of the students of the European Humanitarian University which was closed by Belarusian authorities. At first it was just a club of animated cartoons fans but later on it became a civil initiative. The persecuted cartoons were created by some members of the virtual community, whose names are not known, and circulated by email.

Pavel Morozov says that participants of the project felt authorities surveillance, but could not imagine that it will take the form of legal prosecution. ‘These cartoons circulated only in the Internet. This is a global information network which does not belong to the Republic of Belarus, that is why it is not correct to accuse cartoons creators of violation of Belarusian laws”, Pavel Morozov stresses.

Officials at the Prosecutors’ Office say that the three who were questioned are for the time being treated by the authorities as witnesses in the investigation, but it is likely that they could be charged soon, in which case they could face up to five years in prison under article 367 of the criminal code.

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