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Proposed legal amendments in Kazakhstan threat to media freedom, says OSCE representative

Bishkek (AKIpress) - Dunja OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today expressed concern about recent developments in Kazakhstan’s legislation that might restrict media freedom and Internet access.“In recent weeks there have been a series of changes in Kazakhstan’s legislation that might result in undue restrictions of public debate in the media and access to the Internet. I call on the authorities to reconsider these changes,” Mijatović said.

On 2 April, the government approved new rules giving it greater control over what the media can report during a state of emergency. On 9 April, the parliament in a second reading approved the revision of the Criminal Code that contains a new article criminalizing the “dissemination of false information, which creates the danger of public order disturbance of or cause substantial harm to the rights and legitimate interests of citizens or organizations or legally protected interests of society or the state.” If committed through the mass media or online, penalties include prison sentences of up to five years.

Further, amendments to the law “On Communications” have passed the parliament and are now are pending the signature of the President. These amendments would allow the prosecutor to temporarily shut down websites and whole communication networks if they are used, for instance, to distribute information “harmful” to individuals, society and the state, or contains calls for “extremist” activities.

“The unclearly defined terms and harsh punishments would allow for a wide interpretation of the law under which the right of freedom of the media can be limited. This might result in self-censorship or undue control over media content by the authorities,” Mijatović said.

Mijatović urged the authorities to continue the dialogue with civil society and to take into account the recommendations of her office’s latest legal review commissioned last year.

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