KAZAKHSTAN - OVERVIEW

edited by Alastair Carthew and Simon Winkelmann

The banning of several newspapers and Internet media sites and the revoking of a newspaper’s licence; security agents harassing the media; raids on a TV station; retention of an editor; were all part of the media in Kazakhstan in the first six months of 2013.

In February, authorities banned eight newspapers and 23 Internet media sites. They included satellite television channel K+; the Stan TV Internet video news site; Respublica (Republic) and Vzglyad (Viewpoint) newspapers and Respublica’s website, Respublika-kz.info. In January, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Live Journal were sued. According to Sofia Lapina of the free speech NGO Adil Soz (A Just Word), 68 legislative acts that regulate certain aspects of media activities were passed by Parliament in 2012 and several new draft laws important for mass media were forwarded for Parliamentary discussion.

The newspapers Vzglyad and Respublika and its affiliated weekly, Golos Respubliki, were suspended as they were accused of spreading extremist views and inciting civil strife through their coverage of the December, 2011 violence in Zhanaozen where 16 people died in a strike by oil workers. Media watchdogs following the cases against both newspapers deemed the prosecutions violated Kazakhstan’s code civil procedure in the case of Respublika and under the constitution in the case of Vzlgyad. In Respublika’s case, the newspaper has changed its title several times over the years to continue publishing despite prosecutions. Some journalists started Ripablik in January. A raid in February banned them from working together or publishing. The former Respublika’s chief editor, Tatiana Trubacheva, was also threatened with criminal prosecution.

The background to government action against the media is traced back to February 2012 when, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported, that the government had enacted legislation barring distribution of print or electronic news deemed a threat to national security; imposed new regulations that require Internet café managers to block access to blacklisted websites and proxy servers, monitor client activity and share client information with government security services.

A third measure requires international broadcasters aiming programming in Kazakhstan, to register with the state. Prior to 2012, in 2011 the broadcast law was adopted resulting in TV and radio being monopolised by the state and in 2009 the media law was changed to make Internet content subject to the same control as conventional print and broadcast media.

In January, it was reported that Kazakh journalist Tokbergen Abiyev was safe and well after disappearing in December. The journalist claimed to have staged his own appearance ahead of a planned press conference about corruption in Kazakhstan to raise awareness about the issue within the country and internationally. ARTICE 19, a media group, criticised Abiyev for disappearing, saying it could cause “unnecessarily great alarm media workers in Kazakhstan and international human rights campaigners.”

Kazakhstan dropped six places to 160 on the Press Freedom Index 2013. It had 7.8 million Internet users at 30 June, 2012 and 700,000 Facebook users at 31 December, 2012.

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