Kazakhstan | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

75

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

28

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

22

Kazakhstan's constitution guarantees freedom of the press while at the same time providing special protection for the president. In practice, the authorities allow limited press freedom but take action against perceived threats to the existing power structure. The media environment in 2005 saw neither significant deterioration nor significant improvement. Media provisions in a new national security law that was passed after the revolutions in neighboring Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan and the unrest in Uzbekistan prohibit the glorification of "extremism" but do not provide a precise definition of "extremism." The Parliament, however, struck provisions from the draft law that would have given prosecutors expanded powers to close media outlets. Libel suits continued to take a toll on the independent press. In March, the National Security Committee won a $38,000 libel judgment against the independent newspaper Soz, leading a local media watchdog group to charge in June that the committee's aim was "to ruin the newspaper financially and destroy it." Independent and opposition media outlets faced continued legal harassment and a targeted crackdown in the lead-up to the December presidential election, while the new national security law gave the authorities additional legal mechanisms to control information. State-controlled media as well as nominally independent media with ties to the state through subsidies or holding companies shied away from aggressive coverage of sensitive issues, in particular allegations of improper conduct by President Nursultan Abish-uly Nazarbayev and members of his family.

The opposition weekly Respublika, successor to the Assandi Times, was the target of numerous punitive actions. In May, a court liquidated Bastau, the company that owned Respublika, after the newspaper published an interview with Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovskii that the court deemed insulting to Kazakhstan. In April, Respublika editor in chief Irina Petrusheva had been detained briefly in Russia on a tax evasion warrant issued by Kazakh authorities. When Respublika began to appear online as Set.kz, the authorities charged that it lacked proper registration. Many in the independent media encountered difficulties in the run-up to the December 4 presidential election. In September, the printing company Vremya terminated contracts with seven newspapers. Some of the contracts were later assumed by Dauir, a printing company controlled by a relative of President Nazarbayev. Police seized multiple print runs of the independent newspaper Svoboda Slova for one article that allegedly defamed the president and another that provided details of the business interests of President Nazarbayev's daughter Aliya. Police also seized print runs of the independent newspaper Juma Times in October and November.

As in previous years, prominent broadcast media were either state run or controlled by members of the president's family or individuals with ties to the president's family; President Nazarbayev's daughter ran several television channels and controlled two of the nation's leading newspapers. President Nazarbayev won a crushing 91 percent victory in the December election; independent observers noted significant media bias during the election, particularly in coverage by nationwide broadcast media. The printing presses and most radio transmission facilities were also under government control. The internet increasingly attracted the attention of Kazakh authorities, who continued to block access to a number of opposition sites, despite the fact that less than 3 percent of the population has internet access. In October, a state-controlled internet service provider stripped the online opposition newspaper Navigator of its .kz address, forcing the site to move to the .net domain. In November, the government said that it would deny a .kz address to sites hosted abroad.