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Internet Watch Report: The 2006 Presidential Election in Belarus


As Internet penetration increases globally, so too does its importance to political contests. Both the Internet and cell phones were used to mobilize the masses during the recent “colour revolutions” in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, which brought down long-standing authoritarian regimes.

This first Internet Watch report, which focuses on election monitoring, represents a pilot venture for the OpenNet Initiative. The motivating hypothesis is that in democratically-challenged countries, theopenness of the Net is likely to come under increasing pressure at key political times. One  key conclusion thus far is that state tampering with the Internet during election periods is likely to be multi-faceted, elusive, less direct, and more difficult to prove than outright filtering and blocking. A second conclusion, based on the first, is that monitoring the Internet for openness during elections is an extremely slippery task that requires the development of new testing methodologies and monitoring capabilities.

This report presents the findings of ONI’s efforts to monitor the Internet during the March 2006 presidential elections in Belarus. Advance preparation included ONI baseline testing and research conducted between June 2005 and January 2006, which revealed that the regime was not filtering political Web sites at that time but that it also had the technical capability to do so, as well as broader in field research which helped to piece together the architecture of control being put in place to control the informational space in Belarus, including the Internet.

For the full text of this report, please click here.