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Bolat Atabaev faces charges of "inciting social hatred."
Germany's top human rights official has called on Kazakh authorities to release a prominent pro-reform theater director.

Human Rights Commissioner Markus Loening said in a statement that Bolat Atabaev was guilty of only using his constitutional right of free expression.

Atabaev, who was arrested last week, faces charges of "inciting social hatred" in connection with protests by striking oil workers in the western town of Zhanaozen, where police shot dead at least 16 people in mid-December.

Well-known German film director Volker Schloendorff has also urged Kazakh judges to release Atabaev, whom he knows personally.

Atabaev has been invited to travel to Germany in August to receive the Goethe Medal, an official decoration honoring non-Germans, for his contribution to cooperation between German and Kazakh theater.

Based on reporting by Deutsche Welle and Deutschlandradio
Google says many of the content-removal requests came from Western democracies.
Google says in a new "transparency report" that there's been a rise in government attempts to remove content appearing on the Internet.

The report says many requests for Google to remove content, especially videos, came from Western democracies, not only countries usually associated with censorship.

In addition to its search engine and other sites, Google owns the world's most popular video-sharing site, YouTube.

In a blog post, Google’s senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou said that several years ago the trend for censorship requests by governments looked like an "aberration, but now we know it’s not.”

The report says Spanish regulators asked Google's search engine to remove 270 links to blogs and newspaper articles critical of public figures. Google said it did not comply with the requests.

The report says U.S. authorities sought the removal of 187 pieces of material for a variety of reasons. Google says it complied with 42 percent of these requests.

Google says it did not comply with Pakistani requests for the removal of six videos allegedly satirizing government officials.

British police asked Google to remove five YouTube videos that were allegedly promoting terrorism. In this case, Google said it agreed.

Turkish authorities requested the removal of 149 YouTube videos that allegedly insulted the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kamel Ataturk. Google said it responded by making the clips unavailable in Turkey.

For the first time, Ukraine, Jordan, and Bolivia asked for a removal of some materials.

In Poland, Google was asked to remove an article critical of the Polish agency for enterprise development and eight search results linked to the article. The search engine said it did not comply.

Google was asked by Canadian officials to remove a YouTube video of a citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down a toilet. The company refused.

Authorities in Thailand asked Google to remove 149 YouTube videos that allegedly insulted the country's monarchy. The company said it complied with 70 percent of the requests.

The report listed no requests from Russia during 2011.

The Google report did not provide many insights about China, where tight Internet controls allow for blocking of content, eliminating the need for authorities to ask Google to take down content.

Fred von Lohman, Google’s senior copyright counsel, said that last year Google received 3.3 million requests from firms, private individuals, and others for removal of content on copyright grounds. The company said it complied with 97 percent of requests.

WIth reporting by AFP

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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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