Press release May 19, 2016
Kazakhstan Tightens Crackdown ahead of Protests
In response to Kazakhstan’s continued arrest of activists opposed to a proposed change in property law, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Local government officials across Kazakhstan are blatantly violating the country’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and assembly,” said Robert Herman, vice-president for emergency assistance and multilateral initiatives. “Authorities are detaining activists across the country, which points to a centralized effort to silence any debate. The government of Kazakhstan should immediately release detainees and drop all charges against them.”
More than 20 activists have been ordered detained for periods of up to two months in Astana, Atyrau, Semei, Shymkent and Uralsk for allegedly violating regulations on peaceful assembly. Since May 17, authorities bave also searched homes of activists and offices of at least one civil society organization, following public outcry against a land reform law proposed by the government of Kazakhstan. By arresting civic activists, the authorities seek to block protests planned for May 21, which activists promoted through social media. Authorities have now reportedly blocked major social media networks and online messaging services.
Kazakhstan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2015, and receives a democracy score of 6.61 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.