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ASTANA -- Kazakh media NGOs and international experts say that country's new broadcast law would put restrictions on the freedom of information, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The draft law -- initiated by the Communications and Information Ministry and passed by the Senate on December 28 -- has been sent to President Nursultan Nazarbaev for final approval.

It requires all foreign television and radio stations to be fully registered with an official Kazakh entity and that 50 percent of the broadcasts of foreign channels consist of domestic content by 2018.

The Kazakh human rights organization Adil Soz, the National Association of Kazakh Broadcasters, and the NGO Internews-Kazakhstan wrote a letter to Nazarbaev requesting that he postpone adopting the law until after parliamentary elections scheduled for January 15.

The letter was signed by some 40 Kazakh media NGOs and it expressed concern about media restrictions within the draft law.

Dunja Mijatovic, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, also expressed concern about the legislation in a statement issued on December 28.

She said the draft law would violate the rights of citizens to freely receive and impart information and it increases state control over the electronic media.

The statement also noted that the recommendations made to the Kazakh government and parliament members by the OSCE and Kazakh civil society organizations during the last several months were not considered in the final writing of the legislation.

Mijatovic sent a letter to the Kazakh Foreign Ministry on December 12 in which she called on Nazarbaev to veto the draft law.

Read more in Kazakh here and in Russian here
Baxtiyar Haciyev received a two-year prison sentence
A Baku court has rejected an appeal by a former parliament candidate and social media activist for early release from his prison term.
Baxtiyar Haciyev (aka Bakhtiyar Hajiyev), 29, is a Harvard graduate and member of the Positive Change movement. He was arrested on March 4 ahead of a protest against the government that he was promoting through social media.
Haciyev was sentenced in mid-May to two years in prison for evading military service, a charge he rejects. He was eligible for parole because he has served one-third of his sentence.
Intiqam Aliyev, who heads a group seeking to defend Haciyev's rights, told RFE/RL that today's appeal was held behind closed doors despite his organization's demand for the hearing to be held in public.
An official in Baku's Qaradag district court told RFE/RL that Haciyev was given a negative assessment of his jail time by prison management, which led the court to rule that he is unrepentent.
International rights watchdogs have called on Azerbaijani authorities to release Haciyev and other jailed opposition activists.
Activist Cabbar Savalan was released on December 26 after being granted a presidential pardon.
Haciyev, who ran unsuccessfully for parliament in November 2010, had said previously that he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if it is not resolved satisfactorily.

Read more in Azeri here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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