According to 2014 Press Freedom Index, Belarus was in the 157th position among 180 countries worldwide. No reason for joy. But the end of the year showed that there is always a room to "improve". The new Law on Mass Media in Belarus was signed by the president Alexander Lukashenko on 20 December. It introduced some critical changes to the work of online information resources. Since the beginning of 2015, when the law came into effect, all information resources circulated via the internet and having information messages or materials formally become mass media.

In fact, that means that any blog or even social network may be considered as mass media and thus should follow the same rules as newspapers or TV. The recently introduced law in Russia names the minimal audience with which a blog becomes mass media. The Belarussian law does not specify this - and access to any private blog may be closed under the decision of the Ministry of Information. And that is another change introduced by the new law: before January 2015 the access to any internet resource could be blocked only by court resolution. Now the Ministry of Information decides on its own. Moreover, if the ministry decides that the resource contains information which is forbidden in Belarus, the site may be blocked even without giving a warning.

All Belarusian internet providers are obliged to comply the ministry's resolution

It is not clear what to do with social networks, but hopefully the whole Facebook or Twitter will not be blocked because of one user's post. And the user can be blocked only by the network's administration - which is only applicable to the national social networks (there are some local ones in Belarus).

Foreign web-sites may also be blocked because of the new rules of distributing information: any distributor should get a license and all distributors of print and electronic media will be listed. Thus, if the corresponding paragraph of the law is followed literally, any foreign mass media should get a permission to distribute information in Belarus.

And formally, the Belarusian Ministry of Information can block access to any foreign web-sites because they have no license.

The new law also makes owners of the online media responsible for any user-generated content. It means that any reader's comment to the article or blog post should be controlled by the owner and deleted if they contain illegal information. Otherwise he or she may receive a warning, and two warnings lead to blocking.