The US Senate passed the Act on democracy in Belarus. Plan to support it

The U.S. Senate passed the “Act on democracy, human rights and sovereignty of Belarus” (Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act of 2020). It also provides the support of the Belarusian it industry, the fight against attempts of the authorities to block access to the Internet, the provision of civil society services to repel cyber attacks.

The document proposes, inter alia, “to support private sector development, especially in the it sector, and its role in the economy of Belarus, including through the development of organizations that support business, organization of training for entrepreneurs, expanding access to Finance for small and medium enterprises.”

The bill proposes
  • to support activities aimed at combating Internet censorship and technologies of surveillance;
  • to support the work of women advocating freedom and human rights;
  • to support the development of education in the Belarusian language;
  • to support private sector development, especially in the it sector, including through the development of organizations business support, training for entrepreneurs, expanding access to Finance for small and medium enterprises;
  • to support political refugees from Belarus in European countries;
  • to support the collection of evidence and investigation of human rights violations in Belarus;
  • to support the health system during a pandemic, including filling the information vacuum;
  • to increase funding, “Radio free Europe/Radio Liberty”;
  • to support independent media, especially those that use the Belarusian language;
  • to provide journalists in Belarus technology for circumvention;

Within 120 days from the date of adoption of the law the head of the U.S. Agency for global media and the Secretary of state must provide a detailed strategy that will address:

  • the extension of news radio, television and internetusage in Belarus, particularly the Belarusian language;
  • support the development and use of technologies to circumvent censorship;
  • the struggle with the attempts of the Belarusian authorities to block access to the Internet;
  • tracking cooperation of Belarusian authorities with any foreign governments or organizations for censorship and surveillance of the Internet, the analysis of such cooperation, if it has been over the last 10 years; tracking purchases of such technologies by the authorities;
  • the protection of journalists subjected to harassment, including withdrawal of accreditation;
  • providing the civil society of Belarus services to repel cyber attacks;
  • the provision of resources, educational materials on digital literacy, bypass Internet censorship, digital security, investigative and analytical journalism to independent journalists, training in these areas;
  • improving the skills of confrontation, misinformation for representatives of civil society and the media;

The bill also proposes to expand the sanctions (prohibition of entry in the U.S.):

  • citizens of Russia, which are related to the suppression of post-election protests;
  • CEC members and individuals who helped the CEC to falsify the election results;
  • members of the KGB, MVD, OMON, in relation to the prosecution of opposition leaders, journalists and peaceful protesters;
  • employees of the Ministry of Information responsible for the persecution of the independent media, including the withdrawal of accreditation and blocking of the Internet;
  • officials of the Union state, regardless of nationality;
  • Russian citizens who participated in the persecution of media and human rights violations, including Russian propaganda, has replaced Belarus in the state-run media.

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The document will come into force after it is signed by the President of the United States.

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