Kazakhstan Bans LiveJournal for Harboring "Extremism"

LiveJournal users in Kazakhstan will need to migrate somewhere else for their blogging activities, after an Astana city court recently placed the popular platform on a list of banned sites. Ailana Iskendirova, a court spokeswoman, stated that the sites placed on the list "promote terriorism and religious extremism and (contained) calls to acts of terrorism and the manufacture of explosive devices. In total, 51 websites have been blocked, according to Eurasianet.

This ban comes right after the Kazakh government began implementing tighter controls over the nation's cyberspace. Earlier this summer, after the Ministry of Communications and Information created borders around the Kazakh web by ordering that all .kz domain names should be hosted on local servers, Google redirected all traffic to google.kz to its international search engine.

Most sources suggest that this comes as a part of a broad campaign to halt extremist activity in the country. Other new regulations, including monitoring Internet café users' activity, have also been put in place, under the belief that "fraudsters" and militant "extremists" frequent these cafés. President Nursultan Nazarbayev stood firmly on his grounds of protecting the country from terrorism:

"Why should we give free reign to everything? ... This is a state, and we should put our house in order.... It is about protecting the state from religious extremism."

So far, opposition has turned to social networking and other online channels to fight this block. Global Voices has reported that activists have organized on Facebook and have created an online petition to remove LiveJournal.ru from the ban list.

Interestingly, this has not been the first time LiveJournal has been blocked in Kazakhstan. In October 2008, the blogging service was censored after Nazarbayev's former son-in-law posted critical comments about the Kazakh government on his own LiveJournal site. And in 2009, Nazarbayev approved a law that provided new controls that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called "oppressive." According to Reporters Without Borders, the latest development involving LiveJournal is just one more stop "on the road of cyber-censorship."