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On April 24, most of Kazakhstan’s newspapers covered the parliament debate about draft Internet legislation.
On April 24, Kazakh media published material on the debate about the draft of legislation on information and communications networks that proposes strict state control over Kazakhstan’s Internet space and also defines forums, blogs and websites as media. That will require them to register as such and comply with stricter regulation.
Just a day earlier, a group of Internet users in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, held a symbolic funeral for the “.kz” web domain, arguing that if the draft legislation becomes law, web access in Kazakhstan will be “buried alive”.
The government insists that the bill is largely aimed at protecting young people from negative information on the Internet, such as extremist, pornographic and other “harmful” websites and blogs expressing individual opinions on any issue under the sun.
According to Anna Karlsreiter, an advisor to the OSCE representative in Kazakhstan, whatever resources are allocated to Internet regulation, efforts to control it will fail. She believes that in a democratic and open society it is up to users themselves to impose filters on content they consider objectionable and there is no justification for public authorities to be involved in the process.
“If today our authorities impose restrictions on the development of … the Internet, [by justifying them as] countering terrorism, extremism, incitement to national discord and cyber crime then they are committing a fatal error for [.kz ] or Kaznet,” wrote Kazakhstani newspaper Business Week. “It will simply cease to be competitive. Nobody can stop us from hanging out on .ru (Russian) social sites, going onto YouTube, downloading material or maintaining a blog on some free site … on Google or Livejournal,” the journal added.
On April 20 the leaders of a number of media outlets and NGOs called on the president of Kazakhstan to use his powers to withdraw the bill on Internet regulation and to engage them in a review of the overall media situation in the country.
Their message stated that, “We, the editors-in-chief of newspapers and Internet publications and representatives of NGOs defending freedom of speech in Kazakhstan call upon you with an urgent request for a meeting in person to discuss the situation which has arisen in the field of media legislation in Kazakhstan and also the intolerable situation created by the police and judicial authorities in regard to individual publications and those in charge of them.”
[KazTAG.kz, MK.kz, DN.kz]