Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Freedom of the press remained weak in 2003 following President Nursultan Nazarbayev's crackdown on opposition media in the previous year. Legislation criminalizing the impugning of the "honor and dignity" of the president remains in effect, as does the 1999 Law on Confidential State Affairs, which classifies the economic interests of the president and his family as state secrets. Perhaps in response to international criticism of the lack of press freedom in Kazakhstan, the government proposed a new media law, which it claimed would bring about positive change to the country's media environment. However, the draft law, Concerning Mass Media, which was passed by the lower house of parliament on December 25, 2003, was widely criticized by both national and international media organizations as a tool to restrict media freedom even further. In particular, vaguely worded language that would subject journalists to prison sentences and fines for "propaganda" or revealing undefined state secrets and provisions to shut down media outlets for violation of various articles in the draft law, as well as requirements on independent broadcasters to transmit official government statements, all leave the draft media law in direct contradiction to international standards of press freedom. The continued imprisonment of journalist and human rights activist Sergei Duvanov for the alleged rape of a minor continued to pose serious questions about press freedom in Kazakhstan. While Duvanov was finally allowed to leave prison following a December 29 court ruling that reduced his sentence, the irregular investigation and flawed trial that had led to his conviction following the publication of an article critical of the president provided a poignant reminder of the risks facing investigative journalists. Threats and physical attacks on reporters remain common, as does self-censorship by journalists and editors. The government controls or influences most newspapers, printing and distribution facilities, and electronic broadcasts. It also categorizes Web sites based in the country as media outlets and periodically blocks access to several opposition sites.