The owners of a Kyrgyzstan news portal that has been blocked for showing a video by the Islamic State militant group have said that the government acted illegally in shutting down the site.
In November, the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry asked the Kloop.kg website to remove its report on the video, which showed Kazakh children being trained by the Islamic State group in Syria. The website's co-founder Bektur Iskender said that the Kyrgyz government was punishing Kyrgyz citizens in order to appease Kazakhstan, which has deemed the video illegal and banned it.
Kloop.kg said it took the Islamic State video footage from a report by Britain's "Daily Mail" news website.
After Kloop.kg refused to take down the report, on December 15 the site's host, ProHost, sent the website a message stating that the Kyrgyz State Communications Agency had ordered the website to be disconnected from the server, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service, Radio Azattyk, reports.
On December 16, the site is accessible to users outside Kyrgyzstan but includes a message stating that it might not be available to Kyrgyz readers (see picture above).
In an editorial, Kloop.kg said the site's editors had been "forced to suspend operation of the site and its blogging platform because of pressure from the authorities. The Prosecutor-General and the State Communications Agency are trying to illegally interfere in our editorial policy."
Kloop co-founder Iskender wrote on his social-networking page that the move by the government to block content was a "shame."
"But no one has canceled the foreign hosting. Well, Kyrgyz authorities, in vain you have once again chosen the path of repression and illegal methods for dealing with the media," he added.
According to Kloop, Kyrgyzstan's State Communications Agency sent a notification to Internet providers on December 10 stating that they should block access to the report on the Islamic State video. However, Kyrgyz providers said that not all companies are able to block individual items and can only comply with the government's order by blocking the entire platform.
In an interview with Radio Azattyk, Kloop.kg editor Ugulbek Akishev said that the website had also refused a request from the Kazakh authorities to remove the report about the Islamic State video from the website.
Asked why Kloop's editors believed the subsequent actions of the Kyrgyz government to be illegal, Akishev said the authorities had failed to notify Kloop before issuing instructions to the site's host to take down the content.
"That is, no warning was given. They bypassed us to ask the providers to block the site. That is illegal. Not only that, but they ordered this to be done without a court order. According to the law on countering extremist activity the Kyrgyz authorities have to first warn an Internet resource to remove extremist material and then, if the site refuses, [they have to] approach the courts," Akishev said.
Akishev told Radio Azattyk that he hoped the site would not be closed down.
"Our provider said that it will be completely disconnected from the server. Most likely, we will be under a different domain for some time. In the meantime, our materials will be published on social networks," Akishev said.
The Islamic State video caused outrage in Kazakhstan, stoking fears of the threat posed by the extremist group. Earlier this month, an analyst from the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the president of Kazakhstan (KazISS) said that blocking access to "radical" content on websites was a reasonable and effective way to combat what he called "information threats."
-- Joanna Paraszczuk