Press release

Kazakhstan: Scores of Activists Detained on Election Day Should Be Released

Authorities in Kazakhstan detain peaceful demonstrators and journalists on the presidential election day.


In response to the recent detentions of peaceful demonstrators and journalists on the day of the presidential election in Kazakhstan, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The detention of peaceful protesters and journalists across Kazakhstan marred the presidential election,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “Kazakhstan has an opportunity to move forward with a new respect for fundamental freedoms under a new president, but its prospects were undermined by the authorities’ actions on Sunday. Freedom House calls for the immediate release of the arrested individuals.”


On June 9, Kazakhstan held its first presidential election without longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev on the ballot. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Nazarbayev’s handpicked successor, won the snap election, which the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s observer mission said  “was tarnished by clear violations of fundamental freedoms as well as pressure on critical voices.” Police arrested nearly 700 people in the two largest cities, Almaty and Nur-Sultan, when they assembled for peaceful rallies on election day. Several journalists, including correspondents from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Agence France-Presse, were also detained. Additional arrests had occurred in the days leading up to the election, with police raiding activists’ homes and some protesters called up for military service as a form of punishment.

Kazakhstan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2019 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2018.