09ASTANA816, KAZAKHSTAN: INTERNET LAW PASSES THROUGH FIRST READING IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA816 2009-05-08 02:00 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO9236
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 #0816/01 1280200
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 080200Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5386
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1566
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHVV/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0943
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1646
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2312
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1128
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1044
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000816 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM OSCE KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  INTERNET LAW PASSES THROUGH FIRST READING IN 
PARLIAMENT, IMPROVEMENTS SUBSEQUENTLY INCORPORATED 
 
REF: ASTANA 0345 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU)  SUMMARY:  On April 29, the Mazhilis (the lower house of 
the parliament) approved at a first reading a controversial draft 
law on the Internet.  The draft now has to go through a second 
reading before being presented to the Senate.  On May 7, the 
Mazhilis legislative working group appears to have further improved 
the text, deleting a controversial proposal that the Procurator 
General be given the authority to shut down websites found to 
contain information that contradicts Kazakhstani legislation.  The 
move was likely precipitated by the barrage of criticism heard from 
both local and international observers, including from the visiting 
Director of OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human 
Rights (ODIHR), Janez Lenarcic.  END SUMMARY. 
 
DRAFT LAW PASSES FIRST READING... 
 
3.  (SBU)  On April 29, the Mazhilis (the lower house of the 
parliament) approved at a first reading amendments to Kazakhstan's 
legislation governing the Internet (reftel).  The draft now has to 
go through a second Mazhilis reading before it can move to the 
Senate.  The Chairman of the Agency for Information and 
Communication (AIC), Kuanyshbek Yesekeyev, defended the draft law as 
a way to bring Kazakhstan's Internet legislation "up to modern 
international standards."  In his presentation to the Mazhilis, 
Yesekeyev argued that the draft legislation would increase the 
responsibility of website-owners for content placed on their sites 
and give the government the necessary tools to battle pornography, 
extremist propaganda, and "the disclosure of state secrets" on the 
Internet.  Yesekeyev's testimony was backed up by Deputy Procurator 
General Daulbayev, who warned the parliamentarians of the "negative 
role" the Internet can play should the current economic crisis bring 
on riots and demonstrations.  Despite the fact that several Mazhilis 
members voiced concerns about the legislation, with one 
parliamentarian passionately arguing that passing the law "will not 
fix anything and could possibly damage everything," the legislation 
passed through the first reading with majority support. 
 
... AND UNDERGOES SOME IMPROVEMENT 
 
4.  (SBU) The draft law, if adopted in its current form, would 
reclassify all web resources as "media outlets," making them subject 
to Kazakhstan's media legislation, including its libel laws.  In 
addition, the text which passed at the first reading also would have 
granted the Procurator General's Office (PGO) the right to order the 
suspension of any web outlet, foreign or domestic, found to contain 
information that contradicts Kazakhstan's legislation.  However, 
following strong criticism from both local and international 
observers, the parliamentary working group responsible for preparing 
the draft for its second Mazhilis reading opted on May 7 to delete 
the reference to the special powers of the PGO, leaving the power to 
shut down sites solely in the hands of the courts.  AIC Chairman 
Yesekeyev told media that he will lobby the parliament to have that 
provision reinstated. 
 
INITIAL RECEPTION CRITICAL 
 
5.  (SBU)  The working group's decision to tweak the draft law was 
likely the result of the cold public reception it initially 
received.  The law's first reading coincided with the visit to 
Astana of Janez Lenarcic, the Director of OSCE's Office of 
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), who was in 
Kazakhstan for high-level bilateral meetings.  Lenarcic publicly 
called on Kazakhstan to consult with ODIHR on the draft legislation 
and stressed that freedom of speech is one of OSCE's fundamental 
commitments.  His comments mirrored those previously voiced by OSCE 
Special Representative on Media Freedom Miklos Haraszti.  In a March 
5 letter to Foreign Minister Tazhin, Haraszti criticized the draft 
law for limiting freedom of expression on the Internet and 
contradicting OSCE and Council of Europe standards. 
 
6.  (SBU)  Media freedom activists have voiced sharp opposition to 
 
ASTANA 00000816  002 OF 002 
 
 
the law, arguing that it would place undue restrictions on site 
content and open the door for Internet censorship.  An initiative 
group of young bloggers, in association with media watch-dog NGO 
Adil Soz, registered their views by mailing to the parliame
nt a 
computer keyboard wrapped in chains.  One opposition website railed 
against the government for trying to turn Kazakhstan into North 
Korea and "attempting to control the uncontrollable." 
 
7.  (SBU)  Perhaps most notable, however, was the critical coverage 
the law received on main stream television, a media outlet that is 
usually most loyal to the government.  In covering the story, a 
reporter for the government-owned KTK channel sarcastically 
commented that the majority of parliamentarians cannot use the 
Internet without the help of their assistants and yet had to pretend 
to be advanced computer-users for the day.  He also wondered how the 
Mazhilis expected the PGO to check the content of over 6,000 
Kazakhstani websites.  Astana TV, a subsidiary of the Nur-Media 
holding company, which is controlled by the ruling Nur Otan party, 
ran a tongue-in-cheek report congratulating the parliamentarians for 
showing "amazing unanimity and speed" in assuring that "order reigns 
on the Internet."  Even Khabar TV, a channel known for its positive 
coverage of the Mazhilis, allowed itself a sly comment that if the 
law passes, users will need to watch what they write in their 
Internet diaries. 
 
8.  (SBU)  COMMMENT:  The changes made by the Mazhilis working group 
are certainly an improvement, although the draft law still contains 
a number of problematic provisions.  What is clear, however, is that 
civil society is readily articulating its concerns, and, most 
notably, the Mazhilis seems to be willing to respond to them.  END 
COMMENT. 
 
MILAS

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