Kazakhstan27 May 2008
Letter to Information and Culture minister about blocking of Radio Free Europe website
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"Journalists in danger"
Reporters Without Borders and the Kazakh public foundation “Journalists in danger” wrote to Information and Culture minister Kul-Mukhamed Mukhtar Abraruly today asking why access to the Kazakh (http://www.azattyq.org) and English-language (http://www.rferl.org) versions of the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty website has been blocked in Kazakhstan for the past six weeks.
Reporters Without Borders would like to share with you its concern about the ability of Kazakh Internet users to access certain news outlets.
KazTelecom, a Kazakh ISP that has clients in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan as well as Kazakhstan, has been blocking the Kazakh (http://www.azattyq.org) and English-language (http://www.rferl.org) versions of the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty website since 11 April. We urge you to address the absence of any explanation for this problem, which is affecting people in both Kazakhstan and in neighbouring countries.
This “incident” coincided with hacker attacks on RFE/RL websites in April. We would like to think that in this case the blocking of access is the result of a technical problem. But unfortunately, in view of KazTelecom’s silence, we fear that it could have quite different causes.
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The Internet is an area of freedom in Kazakhstan. The number of Internet users has increased 17-fold in the past seven years. With more than a million Internet users, your country is now well placed as regards the development of telecommunications in Central Asia.
However, we have noted that the Internet in Kazakhstan is subject to strict policies that limit freedom of expression whenever the authority of the president or his party is questioned. Three opposition websites have been blocked since October 2007 for posting articles referring to the so-called “Rakhatgate” affair, which allegedly criticized top Kazakhstani officials and business elite.
This situation only strengthens our fear of seeing Kazakhstan take over the presidency of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a democratic institution, in 2010. Safeguarding Internet development by responding to our request would be a first step towards a more transparent policy.
We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.
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