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Kazakh Media Groups Criticize New Bill

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev was reelected for a third seven-year term in December 2005 after garnering 91 percent of the vote (file photo) (epa) June 5, 2006 -- Five media advocacy groups in Kazakhstan are criticizing a new media bill drafted by the government, calling it a step toward "totalitarianism and stagnation."

Information Minister Ermukhamet Ertysbaev, who initiated the legislation, says its purpose is to establish order on the media market and prevent abuses of freedom of speech.

If approved, printing companies would need to gain government licenses and media organizations would need to pay registration fees. It would also oblige them to set aside money to cover damages to future victims of libel.

The Kazakh parliament is expected to discuss the bill later this week.