09ASTANA345, KAZAKHSTAN: DRAFT LAW WOULD EXPAND STATE REGULATION OF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA345 2009-02-25 06:42 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO1717
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK
RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0345/01 0560642
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 250642Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4723
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1244
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0626
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1332
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0327
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2168
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2496
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0805
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0721
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000345 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, IIC, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI KPAO KDEM OSCE KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  DRAFT LAW WOULD EXPAND STATE REGULATION OF 
INTERNET 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  The Mazhilis -- i.e. the lower house of 
Kazakhstan's parliament -- is currently considering a draft package 
of amendments that would, if passed in its current form, greatly 
increase state regulation of Internet content and grant the 
Procurator General's Office the right to block any site, foreign or 
domestic, whose content contradicts Kazakhstan's domestic 
legislation.  The Agency for Information and Communication defends 
the draft as a necessary step in updating the country's legislation 
and protecting the privacy of citizens.  Civil society activists 
have sharply criticized the draft and say the law would open the 
door for the government to censor the Internet.  Some analysts have 
speculated that the real purpose of the legislation is to block 
damaging web-postings from President Nazarbayev's former son-in-law, 
Rakhat Aliyev.   END SUMMARY. 
 
DRAFT INTERNET LAW BEFORE THE MAZHILIS 
 
3.  (U) The Mazhilis -- i.e. the lower house of Kazakhstan's 
parliament -- is currently considering a package of legislative 
amendments that would expand the state's regulatory powers over 
content posted on the Internet.   When presenting the draft 
amendments to the Mazhilis, the Chairman of the Agency for 
Information and Communications, Kuanyshbek Yesekeyev, argued that 
the goals of the changes are to bring regulations that govern the 
Internet up-to-date and assure greater protection of the private 
information of Kazakhstani citizens.  Yesekeyev maintained that his 
agency drafted the amendments in response to public concerns over 
"the appearance of private information on the Internet."  He argued 
that legislative changes would increase "transparency" and give the 
state the tools to track down "who posted what information."  The 
draft law is a step forward in protecting the constitutional rights 
of citizens and legal entities, he insisted.  The legislative 
package, which would update the Administrative and Civil Codes, the 
Law on Communications, the Law on the Media, and the Law on National 
Security, is currently being reviewed by a Mazhilis ad hoc working 
group. 
 
NEW RESTRICTIONS ADDED 
 
4.  (U) The draft package of amendments, if adopted in its current 
form, would grant the state purview not only over domestic websites, 
but also foreign websites, chat rooms, blogs, and e-libraries.  It 
would redefine all Internet resources, including chat and blog 
sites, as "media outlets," making them subject to Kazakhstan's media 
legislation.  The draft amendments would also tighten up the 
liability of foreign media, granting the state the power to block 
any foreign site that contains information that contradicts 
Kazakhstan's national legislation, although it is not clear which 
agency would be responsible for checking the sites' content.  An 
amendment to the Law on National Security would grant the security 
services the right to filter information coming from foreign 
providers and block information disruptive to national security. 
The Procurator General's Office would be empowered to suspend any 
Internet outlet for three days, without a court ruling, if the 
outlet's content "breaches the law and such a breach can cause 
significant harm to the interests of society and the nation."  The 
power to suspend the outlet for longer than three days would lie 
with the Astana City Court, which would issue its decision following 
a "special procedure," i.e., without the presence of the defendant. 
 
5. (U) The draft legislation would also expand the grounds for 
suspension or closure of media outlets -- which would apply to 
traditional media outlets, such as newspapers, as well as to the 
Internet.  In addition to the existing and rather long list of such 
grounds, the law would grant the state the power to shut down media 
outlets for information that violates the regulations governing 
political campaigning; forces people to participate or not 
participate in a strike, peaceful protest, pickets, or 
demonstration; and incites inter-ethnic or inter-confessional 
conflict. 
 
ASTANA 00000345  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
SHARP CRITICISM FROM CIVIL SOCIETY 
 
6. (U) Kazakhstan's media-freedom activists have levied sharp 
criticism against
 the draft legislation.  A group of journalists and 
civil society activists issued a statement demanding that the 
government recall the law immediately.  Tamara Kaleyeva, the head of 
Adil Soz, a leading media watchdog NGO, said the law would "impose 
severe censorship" on all websites.  She harshly criticized the 
provision that would grant the prosecutors the right to suspend 
Internet outlets without a court order.  "This will turn into 
complete tyranny" by the Procurator General, which will be vested 
with the power to decide which sites are harmful," she argued. 
 
7. (U) Seitkazy Matayev, Chairman of the Union of Journalists, 
likened the draft law to the Internet-censorship policy practiced by 
the Chinese government.  Kazakhstan was already following the 
Chinese pattern of "economy first, politics second," he argued, and 
now it will copy China's policy on Internet freedom.  Matayev 
nevertheless mocked any attempt to block information flow on the 
Internet as "unrealistic."  He conceded that Kazakhstan needs to 
update its Internet regulations, but argued that a good law can only 
be written with the cooperation of website owners and journalists. 
 
CIVIL SOCIETY LOBBIES FOR CHANGES 
 
8.  (SBU) Several civil society activists, including Kaleyeva and 
Matayev, have attended meetings of the Mazhilis working group 
considering the legislation.  According to Kaleyeva, the 
parliamentarians are not open to hearing civil society's input.  She 
told us that in the last session she attended, the working group was 
studying technical avenues of blocking websites.  Kaleyeva plans to 
approach the Ministry of Information and Culture, as well as the 
Agency for Information and Communications itself, to share civil 
society's concerns with the legislation.  OSCE's Representative on 
Freedom of the Media Miklos Haraszti sent a letter to Mazhilis 
Chairman Mukhamedzhanov and Senate President Tokayev on February 6, 
urging the parliament to consider the input of civil society, to 
carefully consider which Internet sites should be labeled "media 
outlets," and to abolish any limits on access to foreign media. 
 
9.  (SBU) COMMENT:  Some media analysts have speculated that the 
draft legislation has a singular purpose -- to block the damaging 
web postings of Rakhat Aliyev, President Nazarbayev's exiled former 
son-in-law.  Be that as it may, the draft law contains several 
provisions that could, if applied to their full extent, greatly 
increase the state's control over all Internet content.  We will 
continue to monitor the progress of the legislation and will work 
with like-minded partners to urge the government to take into 
consideration the views of civil society and the OSCE's Haraszti. 
END COMMENT. 
 
HOAGLAND

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