Media activists in Kazakhstan have expressed concern over a draft law on the Internet being considered by parliament.
Seitkazy Mataev, chairman of the Union of Kazakh Journalists, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that the law would introduce censorship to the Internet.
The law proposes stricter control over the Internet and allows the state to block websites.
Yuriy Mizinov, the chief editor of popular website zonakz.net, told RFE/RL that such legislation could be an attempt by the government to block the Live Journal website of Rakhat Aliev, the former son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who
routinely posts embarrassing or compromising documents and audio about the Kazakh government on the Internet.
Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament, the Mazhilis, passed April 29 a controversial law changing the way Internet regulation is governed in the Kazakhstan domain.
With the expansion of the reach of Internet pages, the number of crimes committed using Internet sources is growing, Zhanna Kurmangaliyeva, executive secretary at the Culture and Information Ministry, told EurasiaNet, citing the dissemination of
pornography and libelous material as examples.
Critics say the law will unduly restrict freedom of expression, equating blogs, forums and chatrooms to media outlets, making site owners responsible for content, and allowing websites to be closed without a court ruling.
The For a Free Internet! campaign expressed disappointment at the vote. We’re asking all Kazakh Internet users not use the sources that the Information Technology and Communications Agency [which drafted the law] has been recently promoting,
and delete all their personal pages in social networks and blogs, Yevgeniya Plakhina, a campaign organizer, told EurasiaNet.
The bill has still to complete its passage through both houses of parliament and must be signed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev before it becomes law.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed into law new controls on the Internet that the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has called repressive.
The OSCE had earlier urged Nazarbayev to veto the bill. The legislation will allow local courts to block websites, including foreign ones, and to class blogs and chatrooms as media.
But Kazakhstan pressed ahead with the new law, with local rights activists confirming the legislation had been endorsed by the powerful president.
Several websites, including the popular blogging service LiveJournal.com, are already inaccessible to most Kazakh Internet users. There are already were signs of increasing self-censorship by local websites where moderators were quickly removing
comments that could be deemed offensive.
Kazakhstan has created a new centre dedicated to censoring blacklisted websites ranging from pornography to those deemed to promote political extremism, an official announced.
The Central Asian country has been criticised for restricting freedom of expression even as it seeks to woo foreign investment.
The new service, called the centre for computer incidents, is similar to Internet watchdogs that exist throughout the world, the head of Kazakhstan's state communications agency, Kuanyshbek Esekeyev, told parliament. Esekeyev said the
authorities had many questions regarding 'religious and political extremism on the Internet.
He said the centre's function would be to monitor websites which have a pornographic or extreme character . At the current time work is being carried out with an entire blacklist of sites which have a destructive character for society.
A browser that bypasses internet censors has become the most popular way to access the Internet in Kazakhstan, a Central Asian state
where sites critical of the government are often blocked.
The Norwegian developed Opera browser made by Opera Software has increased its market share sharply in the ex-Soviet state since it began to allow downloads of compressed web pages via a server outside the country, a feature designed to speed
The Opera browser is now the most popular in the country with a market share of 32%, beating out rival products from Google, Microsoft and Apple, according to statistics for March from Web analytics firm StatCounter.
The new version of Opera introduced last year, Opera 10, allows users to view otherwise inaccessible Web pages using its Opera Turbo feature designed to speed up browsing over slow connections.
Kazakhstan introduced a law last year allowing local courts to block access to Web sites whose content has been deemed illegal, a step that human rights groups say amounts to censorship.
Some of the most popular blogging websites such as Livejournal.com and Google-run Blogger.com are now inaccessible to most of Kazakhstan's 3.2 million Internet users.