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Kazakhstan14 January 2005

Opposition steadily sidelined from the Internet

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the growing inroads into free expression in Kazakhstan after the blocking of opposition websites was extended on 7 January to include www.dpkakzhol.kz, the site of the leading opposition party, Ak Zhol.

The authorities blocked access to the Ak Zhol site from within Kazakhstan after it posted an article criticising a 6 January decision by an Almaty court to ban another opposition party, Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK).

"Ukraine’s recent ’orange revolution’ seems to have scared the Kazakh regime, which is stepping up its control over news and information and which has realised that to muzzle the opposition you must not only ban political parties but also eliminate them from the Internet," Reporters Without Borders said.

The article posted on www.dpkakzhol.kz described the banning of the DVK as a violation of the Kazakh people’s basic freedoms and the Ak Zhol executive committee called on all of the country’s political movements to combat "the reactionary forces."

News of the development was reported by another opposition online publication, www.kub.kz, which has been inaccessible from within Kazakhstan since 2002. Reporters Without Borders learned that access to the Ak Zhol site was indeed being blocked by the country’s two main Internet Service Providers, Kazakhtelekom (which is state-owned) and Nursat (which is partially state-owned).

The Almaty court ruled that the DVK was an "extremist" party because it was liable to incite civil disobedience. Along with Ak Zhol and the Communist Party, the DVK belongs to an opposition coalition called "the democratic forces of Kazakhstan."

The DVK site, www.npdvk.kz, can still be accessed by Internet users in Kazakhstan, as the court’s decision does not take affect for two weeks and the DVK has decided to appeal.

The blocking of Kazakh opposition websites is part of a systematic effort by the authorities to gag dissidents since 2002. The first site to be blocked in 2002 was www.kub.kz. The National Security Committee then issued a statement in 2003 calling on Kazakhtelekom to block access to 10 sites deemed to be "destructive," or pose a threat to the state.

The measures affected websites that were linked to the opposition or offered independent news and information. Some 10 online publications, including kub.kz, were closed by Kazakhtelekom, Nursat or the privately-owned operator Astel.

For more information about online free expression in Kazakhstan, go to http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10647




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