Controversial Internet Bill passed in First Reading

    Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament, the Majilis, passed April 29 a controversial law changing the way Internet regulation is governed in the Kazakhstan domain. The government says the changes will provide for greater accountability and make it easier to fight cyber-crime.
    "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.
    Four members of the campaign were briefly detained in Almaty on April 24 and later released without charge.
    The government affirms its commitment to freedom of speech. "Everyone has the right to freely receive and disseminate information by any means not prohibited by law," Kurmangaliyeva said.
    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, according to Eurasianet.