Freedom of the press

Kazakhstan claims to be open and democratic. However investigative reporters and media outlets face constant harassment, surveillance and interference. Journalists face criminal prosecution for  dubious reasons, and when they are prosecuted the charges are often excessive.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Kazakhstan, in their ‘World Press Freedom Index’ – 157th out of 180 countries.[1] Is it any wonder, the Kazakhstan authorities detained over 50 journalists reporting on the May land protests in 2016, and blocked access to some websites and news broadcasts.[2]

In May 2016, a court found journalist Guzyal Baidalinova criminally liable for “disseminating false information” for information she published about a Kazakh bank, imprisoning her for 18 months. In July 2017, she was released on parole.[3] It does not end there – Seitkazy Mataev, head of the National Press Club, a platform for critical voices, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on embezzlement and tax evasion charges, and his son, Aset, also a journalist, to five years in prison for embezzlement in October 2016. It was a dubious prosecution with many media watchdogs questioning whether the prosecution was in reltaiation of thei criticical views of the Kazakh regime.

Freedom of the press is a major problem in Kazakhstan – newspapers are often hounded or sued out of existence by the state authorities. For instance Kazakh authorities sued Respublika, a critical website, in United States and Australian courts, over leaked government documents exposing corruption in the country. Why choose those courts to sue – they sought to capitalize on those countries’ anti-hacking laws.

Yet it is not just in traditional forms of media that the Kazakh regime seek to stamp out dissent. Increasingly the authorities are using increasingly elaborate and aggressive methods to stamp out dissenting voices on the internet and social media.  Amnesty International said in a briefing published today. There has been a slow but steady erosion of the right to freedom of expression online in Kazakhstan over the past few years.

Legislative powers have been introduced to block access to particular websites, to deploy administrative and criminal sanctions. Increasingly the state is targeting individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Independent media has been squeezed, but whereas the internet was relatively free of state interference – this has recently come under attack.[4] A recent report from Amnesty International has highlighted that since January 2016 all internet users are required to install a “national security certificate” that allows the authorities to scan communications sent over the HTTPS protocol, and block access to individual webpages.

Campaign Kazakhstan calls for:

  • Freedom of the press.
  • That the press should be placed under the democratic ownership and control of the working class.
  • Freedom on the internet.