The 5th Belarus IGF will not be held this year. An open letter by the Belarus IGF Steering Committee. 01.09.2020

Dear colleagues,

On behalf of the Belarus IGF Steering Committee we inform you that the Forum will not be held this year in any format. Taking into consideration the situation in Belarus after the presidential elections on August 9, we do not consider the IGF organizing to be safe, effective and ethical. There are a number of reasons for this:

1. Impossibility of implementing the multistakeholder approach - the basic principle of the IGF. Now, the Belarusian government is demonstrating its refusal to conduct a dialogue with civil society on issues of vital importance to Belarus. Despite the support of the Forums over the past 4 years from a number of relevant ministries and departments, we consider it impossible to discuss the development of the Internet until the stabilization of the socio-political situation.

2. A number of technical problems related to the Internet access. For 3 days after the elections, Belarus was disconnected from the Internet; the risk of a repeat of this disconnect is still high. Sites, messengers, social networks located abroad turned out to be inaccessible to all Belarusians. Regulators attributed this fact to massive external DDoS attacks, which has not been confirmed by the technical community. At least once a week, there are problems with the mobile Internet in Belarus. Operators directly refer to the requirements of state regulators in case of interruptions.

3. Mass blocking of websites of independent media, human rights organizations, civic organizations that address the situation in the country. The blacklist also includes VPN services that helped Belarusians to use the Internet in the absence of Internet.

4. Finally, in Belarus, mass detentions and pressure on representatives of business, human rights organizations, civil initiatives and work collectives do not stop. We do not see an opportunity to build an open dialogue in conditions where people can be detained without corpus delicti. We do not want to provoke new persecutions because citizens express their point of view.

We are extremely concerned about this situation. For several years Belarus IGF has been considered one of the most significant platforms for dialogue on the development of the Internet not only in the country, but throughout Eastern Europe. Today, stakeholders are forced to focus on solving problems of a different order, such as respect for human rights and the rule of law.

On behalf of the Steering Committee of Belarus IGF, we urge foreign colleagues to draw the attention of the international community to the situation in Belarus. We will be grateful for e-mails and posts on social networks addressed to the Belarusian IGF community, civil society and ordinary Belarusians.

We sincerely hope that next year we will be able to host you at a large-scale Belarus IGF in a free, peaceful and technological Belarus.

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