(Prague, Czech Republic - May 20, 2008)
For more than five weeks, Internet users in Kazakhstan have been unable to access the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Kazakh-language website despite repeated requests to the Kazakh government and KazTelecom to restore service.
"This is very disturbing," says RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. "We initially thought we had a technical problem on our hands, but the Kazakh government's refusal to respond to us, after many requests, suggests that it's a case of deliberate interference. If they were interested in restoring our service, they would have and could have done so by now."
Since April 11, RFE/RL's Kazakh-language website, www.azattyq.org,
has been blocked along with the RFE/RL English-language website. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty websites in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are subject to similar difficulties because KazTelecom is the main Internet Service Provider for Central Asia. RFE/RL is providing alternate access to its Internet pages in all four Central Asian countries, but the original sites remain blocked.
In 2010, Kazakhstan will assume the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Vienna-based human rights monitoring body. However, according to Freedom House, the status of Kazakhstan's press is "not free." And the New York-based media watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) blasts the Kazakh government for its "nepotism, its total control of influential broadcast media, and its record of unpunished attacks on the press."
RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, operating from Prague and Almaty, broadcasts eight hours of Kazakh-language programming daily via satellite, shortwave and state-owned AM. Until April 11, programming was also available online at www.azattyq.org.
English-language news about Kazakhstan is available at www.rferl.org.