In Kazakhstan We Have Many Hobbies, Except Blogging

I agree with Simon Chester, Borat was a “silly film.” The real country of Kazakhstan is making headlines, and few people online are laughing.

The parliament in that country has approved a new law that would allow criminal prosecution for blogs, chat rooms and social networking sites. Foreign sites considered unsuitable can also be blocked.

The government defends the recent move, saying it is intended for child pornography and extremist literature. But critics cay that it can also be used to censor content on elections, strikes, demonstrations, and inter-ethnic strife.

The popular blog site,, is already inaccessible to people in the country. In 2007, a pro-opposition blogger was given an extended sentence for insulting the president. Concerns of rendition to other states for the purposes of torture have also been raised.

Harout Semerdjian of UCLA accuses the country of a history of unlawful arrests of journalists and arson against Ak Zhaiyk, one of the largest independant publications in the country.

However, Kazakhstan is not part of the Axis, and will probably use these “untraditional methods” to oppress political groups in the name of fighting terrorism, so we probably won’t get as much coverage as recent political strife in Iran. Unfortunately this situation is hardly limited to these two countries, but the instances we do hear about are selective based on unrelated political tensions.

The main human rights watchdog in Europe, The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), has also offered up their criticism. Perhaps slightly ironically, Kazakhstan is expected to assume the chair of this same organization in the next six months.

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