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Kazakhstan14 December 2005

Reporters Without Borders raps censorship of UK comedian’s "Borat" website

Reporters Without Borders condemned censorship by the Kazakh government, which has removed the right to use the .kz suffix (equivalent to .uk) from two websites it finds troublesome, including that of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, or "Borat".

The worldwide press freedom organisation said it was concerned by the politicisation of the administration of domain names and has written to Franck Fowlie, ombudsman for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN,) that registers domain names, asking him to intervene. carries sketches by Sacha Baron Cohen, who portrays a sexist and racist Kazakh journalist on the US cable channel HBO. The Kazakh web business body that manages the .kz ˆ said the site had been shut because was hosted outside Kazakhstan and false administrators‚ names had been given when it was registered.

The government decided last month to deny .kz to sites hosted abroad, an unjustified step that tightens political control over Kazakh online publications.

"The role of bodies that manage the country code top-level domain names (ccTLDs) is above all technical. They are not qualified to censor the contents of sites", Reporters Without Borders said in its letter to Frank Fowlie. „We find however that the Kazakh government sees to it that websites that mock or criticise it are rejected."

"In this way, it infringes the principles set out by ICANN, which requires that the management of the ccTLDs should be fair and non discriminatory‚. We think that an intervention by your organisation would show that it was capable of defending free expression on the Internet, a key issue when you consider the stormy debates on the governance of the Internet that marked the recent World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)", the letter to the ombudsman said.

The opposition website was forced to give up its .kz at the end of October after a legal procedure that was stage-managed by the authorities.

In November, Reporters Without Borders put Kazakhstan on a list of "countries to watch" because of repeated violations of free expression on the Internet. See:

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