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Kazakhstan’s Emergency Media Law

Under the new law, newspapers would have to seek approval for their texts in times of crisis.
Under the new law, newspapers would have to seek approval for their texts in times of crisis.
RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, Azattyq, reports that Kazakhstan’s media has new regulations it must follow in times of crisis. If the country finds itself in a state of emergency, experiencing moments of great uncertainty, when the people of the nation will most need news, media outlets will have to observe a break (or brake) on delivering information about what is happening.

That is due to a new rule, made public at the start of April that sets new rules for publishing or broadcasting information after a state of emergency has been declared in Kazakhstan.

The new rules obligate owners of media outlets -- print, radio, or television -- to hand over texts of their reports to the local "komendatura," the officials in charge of preserving order during a state of emergency, 24 hours before the reports are published or broadcast.

If those local authorities find problems in any reports they can halt the airing or publication of the report.

If the report is disseminated without approval and is found to be unsuitable, the komendatura can order the “offending” media outlet to suspend its activities.

It effectively gives state media a monopoly on the dissemination of information during an emergency situation.

Tamara Kaleeva, the head of Kazakhstan’s independent media rights organization Adil Soz, told Azattyq one reason for the new regulations provide a legal basis for preventing information from getting out about unrest in Kazakhstan.

She pointed out during the violence in the western Kazakh city of Zhanaozen in December 2011 that left 17 people dead, authorities had to justify shutting down media, suspending Internet access, and cutting off mobile phone service.

Kaleeva also said the new rules are a response to recent events in Ukraine, where three months of protests led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Learning The Wrong Lessons

That is the classic reaction of Central Asian governments to unrest nearby, certainly to social upheaval in the CIS.

When neighboring governments experience social unrest, Central Asian governments traditionally do not look at the roots of the problems -- social inequality, unemployment, state corruption -- and seek to cure these deficiencies in their own countries.

Instead, the Central Asian governments try to determine which legislative gaps and security slip-ups allowed social unrest to start. Then they take measures to ensure the same “mistakes” cannot be repeated in their countries.

Just look at any of the major unrest in Kyrgyzstan in the last 10 years and then look at the new amendments, rules, and regulations passed in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in the weeks that followed. New restrictions are placed on freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and more authority is given to law enforcement agencies, among other changes.

On that note, Kazakhstan is not the only Central Asian country to have acted in the wake of events in Ukraine.

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, Radio Ozodi, reported at the start of March that a new rule went into effect in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.

Officials went in search of people who had spare tires at their homes (besides the one spare tire every car should have). Those possessing old spare tires, or a suspicious number of spare tires, were ordered to take the tires to an area 40 kilometers outside the capital and leave them there.

No Maidan bonfire in Dushanbe.
-- Bruce Pannier. Kazis Toguzbaev and Assem Tokaeva of RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service and Salimjon Aioubov and Tohir Safarov of RFE/RL’s Tajik Service helped in the preparation of this report.

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.​

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.


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