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Kazakhstan President Urged to Block Internet Censorship Bill

Freedom House urges the parliament and president of Kazakhstan to prevent the passage of a bill that would give the government almost unlimited authority to censor domestic and international websites. Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor sent a letter to President Nazarbayev yesterday stating that, if passed, the law would restrict the constitutional right of Kazakhstani citizens to freely access information and violate the country’s international commitments to liberalize working conditions fo r the media.

Kazakhstan President Urged to Block Internet Censorship Bill

May 15, 2009

Washington


Freedom House urges the parliament and president of Kazakhstan to prevent the passage of a bill that would give the government almost unlimited authority to censor domestic and international websites. Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor sent a letter to President Nazarbayev yesterday stating that, if passed, the law would restrict the constitutional right of Kazakhstani citizens to freely access information and violate the country’s international commitments to liberalize working conditions fo r the media.

The Kazakhstani Senate is currently considering the bill which already received approval from the lower house of parliament. The law would significantly broaden the grounds that could be used to justify suspending or shutting down both traditional and internet media, marking a step backwards for freedom of expression in Kazakhstan. 

"Senior Kazakhstani officials promised to expand media freedom in their campaign to secure the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010,” said Jeff Goldstein, Freedom House senior program manager for Central Asia. “This bill would directly contradict their promises and severely restrict one of the few remaining sources of independent information available to the citizens of Kazakhstan.”

Freedom House and its Kazakhstani partners released a report in February enumerating the dangers posed by this legislation. One provision would expand the range of Internet sites treated as mass media, making them subject to the harsh legal punishments now reserved for traditional media. Another would create a special court proceeding that would allow the government to block distribution of information on international websites without their consent.
Since the report’s release, the lower house of parliament did remove another provision that Freedom House criticized because it would have allowed the prosecutor general to close down websites without a court order.

The Kazakhstani legislation is part of a global trend—identified in Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report—in which governments are expanding censorship and using legal threats to control the internet. Kazakhstan is ranked Not Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2008 version of Freedom of the Press.

To learn more about Kazakhstan, read:

Freedom in the World 2008: Kazakhstan
Freedom of the Press 2008: Kazakhstan
Nations in Transit 2008: Kazakhstan
Freedom on the Net

 



04.06.2009