You are here
Kazakhstan: Media Crackdown Casts Doubt On Fair December Election
With little less than a month until presidential elections in Kazakhstan, official restrictions on independent media freedoms are threatening the chances of a free and fair vote, Freedom House said today.
Restrictions on independent media began in late September 2005, in the run up to the election scheduled for December 4. A publishing house suddenly cancelled contracts with seven opposition newspapers and five journalists have been arrested without explanation or access to legal representation. The authorities have also imposed new obstacles for registering media outlets. Taken together, these developments signal a reversal of the marginal improvements in independent media made in the country last year.
"The Kazakh authorities' attempt to criminalize independent media suggests that there is insufficient political will to permit the people of Kazakhstan to participate in genuine elections," said Freedom House Acting Executive Director Thomas O. Melia.
Kazakh authorities have also seized several editions of newspapers, including one featuring a story about the business activities of President Nursultan Nazarbayev's daughter, and one featuring a transcript of a CNN interview with Nazarbayev, which was thought to have disrespected him.
"The world is watching to ensure that next month's presidential elections do not resemble the internationally criticized parliamentary elections of last year," said Mr. Melia. "These sorts of crackdowns on political opposition and constraints on legitimate news outlets make clear to all what sort of regime governs in Kazakhstan."
In June 2005, Freedom House issued a statement in response to legal measures threatening the work of civil society and the political opposition in Kazakhstan. Since then, the Kazakh government has nominally affirmed its commitment to human rights by ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. While ratification is a positive step, the government has yet to abide by the treaty's obligations. Specifically, the government of Kazakhstan ought to:
- Cease the denial of rights and the harassment of opposition activists and journalists;
- Allow fair media representation for a diversity of political views capable of reaching a national audience;
- Enable the unfettered activity of civil society before and after the elections.
According to Nations in Transit 2005, Freedom House's comprehensive examination of democratization in the post-Soviet world, Kazakhstan's level of institutional development remains at critically low levels across virtually all of the sectors examined in the report, including electoral process and independent media.
Freedom House material on Kazakhstan is available online at:
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.