Polish protests against the attack on free media and the internet in Kazakhstan
© mukhtarablyazov.org 22.09.2013

Yesterday’s announcement of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan with respect to the ban on two key opposition groups and approx. 40 independent media outlets for ’promoting extremism’ prompted stern reactions from observers of political processes in Kazakhstan and the media in Poland.

Marcin Święcicki, Member of Parliament , observer of political processes in Kazakhstan on behalf of the Polish Parliament, made a comment on the statement of Kazakhstan’s General Prosecutor’s Office “The statement of Kazakhstan’s General Prosecutor’s Office regarding the filing of a motion with the court, requesting a ban on the remaining newspapers and the last TV channel independent from the government, as well as a ban on the internet websites connected with these media outlets, represents a dramatic step towards the elimination of the few remaining free media outlets from Kazakhstan”.

In the MP’s opinion: “Kazakhstan is moving back towards extreme authoritarianism. The General Prosecutor’s Office labelled criticism of the authorities, ‘extremism’ and support for the strikers and the families of the killed and injured demonstrators - ‘inciting discord’. Following the killing of 16 demonstrators (according to official data) in December 2011 in Zhanaozen, and the subsequent sentencing to imprisonment of several dozen union and opposition activists, Astana based authorities continue on their march towards an authoritarian state and this cannot be completely ignored. The democratic world should show solidarity with those persecuted and Astana-based authorities should call for reflection and observance of international obligations”.

The MP shall make a statement with regard to this matter in the Polish Sejm tomorrow.

Igor Vinyavskiy, editor of the independent weekly magazine ‘Vzglyad, currently residing in Poland, who was also put on the list of media outlets which are to be banned, summed up the situation as follows: “We are proud that, heedless of the pressure from the regime and the whole apparatus of oppression, which the law enforcement bodies in Kazakhstan have become, we have always striven to oppose the creation of the personality cult and the stupefying of citizens with pro-governmental propaganda’. Vinyavskiy added that the media have been deprived of an effective right to defence. “After the delivery of the judgment in the case of the opposition leader, Kozlov, in the court of first instance on 8 October 2012, we made attempts to appeal against the decision. However, we were denied the right to defence and told that editorial offices were not party to the case. On 19 November, the day on which the ruling entered into force, simultaneously, the sentence was in fact, passed against our editorial office.

The expression of solidarity with their colleagues from Kazakhstan was also declared by Polish journalist environment. As stated by Stefan Truszczyński , the general secretary of the Association of Polish Journalists in an interview with Radio Wnet: “members of the organisation are outraged by the Prosecutor Office’s decision and intend to issue a statement 0n this case, as well as apply for an intervention to the International Federation of Journalists.” Jacek Szymanderski, a member of Free Word Association, announced that the association would address a letter to the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Warsaw.

The organisation ‘Reporters Without Borders’ also expressed itsindignation with the matter. In its most recent report on the freedom of the press - Press Freedom Index – Kazakhstan was ranked 154 out of 179 examined countries. In the election of April 2011 (Nazarbayev received 95.55% of the vote) many internet websites, e.g.Radio Free Europe, BBC, and independent television K+ were periodically blocked. One month later, the Kazakh government ordered   Google to solely use servers located in Kazakhstan, which would increase the control capabilities over the content streaming in the domestic network. Google refused the request and closed down its local website, thus withdrawing from Kazakhstan.

Three main independent media: Stan TV, the satellite TV channel K+, information agency Namystan and Respublika daily, were subjected to especially harsh oppression. These were the only media outlets, to broadly report on last year’s strikes in Zhanaozen and the subsequent trials of labour union activists and oppositionists.

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