New laws have been unveiled in Belarus that will ban access to sites hosted in foreign countries and significantly restrict free speech. Coming into effect this Friday (6th Jan), the law forbids anyone from the country visiting sites that aren’t hosted at a dot.by domain and impose heavy fines on those found to be doing so. The government is also preparing to fine anyone that accesses “extremist” or “pornographic” sites. Apart from the obvious effect it might have on users aiming to access online gambling sites it also means that a number of extremely well known sites, such as Amazon and eBay, won’t be available to Belarusian consumers.
This doesn’t for a second mean that online gambling industry firms are being targeted but it serves as a stark warning to any firms that operate or are planning to in Belarus. Any players logging onto sites not hosted at a dot.by domain should be aware that fines will be handed down to offenders. The highest that can be doled out is 1m Belarus rubles (£77; $120). It might not sound like much to someone in a developed country but with average monthly wages barely exceeding $200 per person the fines are severe.
The ban is enforced at any location where the Internet can be accessed which includes your own home, cafes, clubs or any location that you might be caught. Of those that work with foreign firms targeting the country, Belarusian advertising agency RG Media told Euroradio the law “does not look very clear. We have no idea how it will affect us.”