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Belarusian business is becoming more and more pessimistic; the country has become toxic for IT; independent media are losing their status; the authorities are thinking about regulating social networks and messengers. Belarus, December 3, 2020

More and more representatives of the Belarusian business expect nothing good in the near future. A representative of the Presidential Administration proposes to regulate the work with content in social networks and instant messengers. The most popular independent news portal TUT.BY has lost its media status in court. The PandaDoc case attracted the attention of American senators and congressmen.

Expectations of Belarusian businesses continue to deteriorate

The data of the second stage of monitoring of business mood of private companies, carried out by the IPM Research Center, have been published. “Business expectations worsened in November. The composite IPM index decreased from 45.01 to 39.16,” the authors of the review report.

“This means that a large proportion of companies expect a downturn and/or a deeper downturn.” All four indicators that make up the composite index are in the drop zone: economic and financial situation, output/sales, and employment.

Production/sales expectations worsened the most, and employment expectations the least. The deterioration affected all sectors. The industry was affected to the greatest extent, while it remained moderately optimistic in October.

In November, businesses significantly lowered their estimates of their current economic and financial position. The financial and economic situation was assessed negatively by 34.9 and 31% of the surveyed enterprises, respectively. Good or very good marks were given by 16.2 and 23.2%. At the same time, the share of those companies that expect further deterioration of their financial and economic situation increased from 45.4 to 53.3%.

A significant decrease in production/sales over the past 2-3 months occurred in 48.4% of the surveyed companies (32.5% of respondents spoke about this in October). A further reduction in production/sales is expected by 54.3% (a month ago it was 35.8%).

In November, companies began to anticipate an acceleration in inflation, the study says. Over the past month, a decrease in selling prices was noted by 19.3% of respondents, an increase - 23.5%, invariability - 54.6%. 38.6% of respondents expect further price increases, 49.2% assume that prices will not change.

The respondents assess the current business environment in Belarus negatively. 84.6% of the surveyed companies assessed the risks of doing business in Belarus as high, including 56.6% as very high. Only 5.8% believe that the risks are below average.

Economic uncertainty, macroeconomic instability, low demand, mistrust of the legal system and financial problems are the top 5 barriers to business growth.

Belarusian authorities think about the regulation of social networks and instant messengers

The deputy head of the presidential administration, Andrei Kuntsevich, said that “we really need new solutions” in order to “regulate the work with content in social networks and messengers.”

Kuntsevich didn’t specify what exactly and how the authorities would like to regulate. But he said that the “main battles” are not on the streets but in the information field. Messengers and social networks “replace traditional sources of information for many.”

The citizens of Belarus are actively sharing news and discussing the events taking place in the country after the presidential elections, creating thematic communities. In addition, neighborhoods have created chat rooms in Telegram where they agree on ways to express their protest.

NEXTA became the most famous Belarusian opposition resource, which gained massive popularity amid protests. It has over 4 million subscribers on all social networks, of which more than 530 thousand are on YouTube and over 2.7 million are on Telegram channels.

On October 19, KGB added the creator of the NEXTA Telegram channel and its former editor-in-chief to the list of persons involved in terrorism. Earlier, they were accused under two articles of the Criminal Code of organizing mass riots and group actions that grossly violate public order, and of committing deliberate actions aimed at inciting social enmity on the basis of professional affiliation, concerning government officials and law enforcement officers.

The court ruled to deprive TUT.BY of media status

The TUT.BY portal reports that the Economic Court of Minsk considered the case at the suit of the Ministry of Information and ruled to deprive the resource of the status of a media outlet. The Ministry of Information believes that “inaccurate information” in materials for which warnings have been issued may harm the state interests. In theory, Tut.By Media can challenge the decision.

The defence of TUT.BY believes that the satisfaction of the claim to deprive TUT.BY of the media status will be directed against the information sovereignty of Belarus, according to the resolution of the Council of Ministers “On the Concept of Information Security”, which states that the state ensures the development of national media in order to achieve information sovereignty.

The Ministry of Information demanded that the portal be deprived of its media status based on four warnings issued since August 7. Only three of them were contested in the Supreme Court. As a result, one warning was declared invalid, and two are enough to deprive the media status. From October 1, the media status for TUT.BY was suspended by order of the Minister of Information until December 30, 2020.

During the pre-election race and after the presidential elections, the journalists of the TUT.BY widely covered the events in the country, including the protests that demanded to recognize the election fraud, stop the violence by the security forces, release political prisoners and hold re-run independent elections. The portal started having problems with the Ministry of Information just before the elections. In addition, it should be noted that the portal’s journalists have been detained many times when they worked at protest actions. And one journalist is now behind bars; she have been charged with criminal charges.

This year, on October 5, the portal celebrated the 20th anniversary of its foundation. The resource went down in history as the first free Belarusian e-mail service. Later, new features were added. The site also worked as the most popular independent news resource. TUT.BY is read by 69% of Belarusian Internet users. The most popular news article received more than 1 million 800 thousand reads. This is the news of how people across the country went to rallies after the presidential election on August 16, 2020.

The founder of the portal, Yuri Zisser, did not live to see the 20th anniversary of the project. He died on May 17, 2020. The businessman had cancer, which he treated for a long time.

US Senators and Congressmen are interested in the PandaDoc case

Mikita Mikado, co-founder of IT company PandaDoc, spoke about the company’s prospects in connection with the allegations against the company’s employees.

The founders of the company Sergey Borisyuk and Mikita Mikado in the summer initiated the creation of a private initiative to raise money for the security officials, who decided to change their profession, refusing to use violence against their own people.

On September 2, searches were carried out in the Minsk office of PandaDoc. 7 out of 20 employees were detained for interrogation. Over the course of two days, DFR employees interviewed more than 100 company employees.

On September 4, it became known about the initiation of a criminal case against four employees of the company. Mikita Mikado and Sergei Borisyuk associate the criminal prosecution with the project to help security officials.

On September 15, Mikita Mikado suspended the project to help dismissed security officials to avoid further harm to employees of his company.

Today, 90 days have passed since the absurd PandaDoc case was opened, and Viktor Kuvshinov’s detention was extended by another month, Mikado said.

According to him, US senators and congressmen, at the suggestion of PandaDoc investors, became interested in the case. They expressed their concern to the Belarusian ambassador.

“What happens next depends a lot on Joe Biden’s cabinet. We are, after all, an American company, which is harshly harassed in Belarus,” Mikado wrote.

He once again stressed that Viktor had nothing to do with the initiative to support the resigned security officials. “However, the repressive machine decided that he was to blame simply because he worked for my company.” It is clear that the PandaDoc case does not lie within the legal framework, Mikado said, and it is not clear what the authorities are trying to achieve.

“Belarus has become toxic for IT. Companies and professionals are leaving the country. Our investor EBRD has frozen financing of Belarusian state projects. In 2019 alone, the EBRD invested 390 million euros in the Belarusian economy,” Mikado said.



In this section you will find information about Belarus. Professional journalists from the independent non-state publication officelife.media (location - Minsk) tell about what is really happening in Belarus. No political accents or ideological attitudes. Only the most important facts so that you understand the essence of what is happening in this corner of Europe.