Central Asian governments continue to clamp down on the Internet – II

By: vessy on 4 February 2008

Corruption rumors involving high-echelon officials is a sensitive topic for governments of the CIS. In October last year, ONI wrote a blog post on Kazakhstan’s political censorship of opposition sites. Four Web sites were shut down after they posted transcripts of telephone conversations allegedly disclosing involvement of the Kazakh president and high-ranking officials in corruption and other illegal activities. ONI research in Kazakhstan continues to monitor these Web sites, two of which remain suspended and one – Internet radio station – apparently filtered within the country (see snapshots of kub.kz, www.geo.kz and www.inkar.info below as of February 4, 2008). Even though the politically sensitive electronic transcripts are now available elsewhere, this continued blocking of the independent sites that first made these transcripts public has resulted in the intensification of self-censorship among journalists and bloggers in the country.

The NGO Article 19 posits that Kazakhstan should protect and upheld freedom of expression and information, which includes protection of Internet content. Infringing this duty is in obvious breach of the country’s Constitution providing for freedom of expression (Article 20) as well as in possible violation of undertakings under international agreements such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which the country is a party. For a comprehensive analysis of states’ commitments under international law instruments and possible enforcement mechanisms, see Mary Rundle and Malcolm Birdling’s article Filtering and the International System coming out in the ONI book Access Denied.