Kazakh Web sites protest proposed law

Ruth Spencer of the European Journalism Centre, a sharp young journalist whom I met at the Eurasian Media Forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan, last month, has an update on efforts by the Kazakh government to censor the Internet.

Citing a Radio Free Europe report, Spencer writes that several leading Web sites in Kazakhstan shut down for one hour on Wednesday to protest the proposed law, which I wrote about here, here and here.

At Global Voices Online, Askhat Yerkimbay has a round-up of what the Kazakh blogosphere is saying about the proposed new law, which has passed the lower house of Parliament. Yerkimbay concludes:

In brief, the Kazakh language bloggers’ main disagreement is that this draft law would make it possible to ban a blog for any reason, while bloggers would have no rights.

There is some hope that President Nursultan Nazarbayev will veto the proposal, according to Adil Nurmakov, Central Asia editor for Global Voices, whom I interviewed in Almaty. For one thing, Kazakhstan is scheduled to assume the presidency of the Organiation for Security and Cooperation and Europe (OSCE), which is a very big deal.

It could be that Nazarbayev will decide that signing a restrictive anti-speech bill into law would harm his country’s image at precisely the moment that he is trying reach out to the world.