Press Release: U.S. Ambassador Gilmore Denounces Belarusian Internet Blockage

U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE James S. Gilmore speaks at an OSCE Permanent Council Meeting (File Photo).

U.S. Ambassador Gilmore Denounces Belarusian Internet Blockage

PRESS RELEASE | August 12, 2020

Vienna – U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) James S. Gilmore called Belarus’s decision to shut down the country’s Internet and block social media sites in the wake of the August 9 Presidential Elections deeply concerning.  “By cutting Internet service, Belarus deprived those in Belarus of their right to peacefully assemble, as is guaranteed by Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The Belarusian authorities throttled or blocked access to social media platforms in order to prevent protests and quash  dissent, in violation of their international obligations.  While they have now restored access, we call on the authorities not to use government-imposed Internet shutdowns for any purpose.”

Beyond trying to stop peaceful protests, Ambassador Gilmore stated Belarus deprived its citizens of access to timely and accurate information by disabling the Internet.  “The powers that be in Minsk deprived the public of their right to seek and receive information, again breaking their obligations under international law as well as contravening their OSCE commitments.  This can have a direct impact on the well-being of their citizens, who are unable to learn the true state of what is taking place in their country.”

On August 10, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) issued a statement saying they were gravely concerned about the situation in Belarus and the disproportionate use of police force against protestors. ODIHR regretted they were unable to send election observers to Belarus due to the Belarusian government’s lack of a timely invitation.  Secretary Pompeo stated the prohibition of local independent observers at polling stations was one of many factors that marred the electoral process.  Ambassador Gilmore echoed these sentiments, calling the lack of observers “highly regrettable,” and added “OSCE observers lend credibility to the electoral process and help counter perceptions of electoral impropriety.  However, free and fair elections are about more than what happens on election day.  The authorities’ actions to stifle peaceful protest both before and in the wake of the elections call into question the legitimacy of the entire electoral process.”


For further details, please contact:
U.S. Mission to the OSCE
G. Michael Snyder, Counselor for Public Affairs
Email: SnyderGM[at]