A law has been passed in Kazakhstan tightening control over the internet in a way which could restrict free speech.
Under the new law, chat rooms, blogs and public forums count as mass media, and therefore bloggers and individuals alike could break the law for expressing their opinions.
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Gatherings and protests have taken place against the new law, many of which have been clamped down upon by the Kazakh government who say the legislation aims to curb the distribution of child pornography, extremist literature and other unsuitable material.
Political opponents, journalists and bloggers argue that laws already exist to prevent the dissemination of illegal material and say the proposed new rules are aimed at restricting criticism of the government.
The legislation would enable authorities to block any media outlet for its coverage of “elections, strikes, demonstrations and relations between ethnic groups, which are the most contentious social and political subjects.”
LiveJournal platform has been blocked in Kazakhstan for a number of months, with the government blaming technical issues for the inaccessibility . The more widely held opinion is that the site has been blocked to cut off access to a blog owned by President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s former son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, who is a vocalcritic of the government.
In the lead up to the law being passed, a number of high profile sites shut down their operations for an hour, and supporters of the site avoided visiting any sites with the .kz domain. Several Internet users in Russia also supported the boycott.