Belarus to require internet comments to be authorized

MINSK, Belarus — The parliament in Belarus has passed a measure prohibiting internet users from commenting on forums without authorization and requiring online publications to register with the government as mass media.

The law passed on Thursday was harshly criticized by the Belarusian Association of Journalists, which called it a further "tightening of the screws" in the country. Under authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994, Belarus has suppressed opposition and clamped down on independent journalists.

It was not immediately clear how authorization of comments on internet forums would be enforced. Information Minister Alexander Karlyukevich suggested it could be done by text messages sent to users.

"The internet remained the last free territory in Belarus, but the authorities didn't tolerate it for long and decided to strengthen control," said journalists' association head Andrei Bastunets.

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