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Kazakhstan: Bloggers Denounce Repeated Blockage of LiveJournal

On August 19, 2011, the largest Russophone blogging platform LiveJournal was blocked in Kazakhstan, less than a year after access to it was re-opened in fall of 2010. According to a decision passed by the Sary-Arka District Court in Astana, this web-resource disseminates materials that have signs of terrorism propaganda, religious extremism, public appeals to staging terrorist acts and forging explosive devices.

This intrusion of the state into virtual life, has stirred up the blogosphere. On the same day, all leading news sites, social networks and blogs featured articles voicing criticism of the state's decision. An online petition [ru] for un-blocking LiveJournal (LJ) has been created. Activists are sharing information on the Facebook group [ru].

The court ruled for the blockage of LJ and a lower profile Russian blogging platform, LiveInternet (which nevertheless has quite a lot of subscribers), along with a dozen of other websites for three months, until November 20.

LiveJournal blocked. Picture by blogger <a href=emarat, used with permission.” width=”287″ height=”215″ />

LiveJournal blocked. Picture by blogger emarat, used with permission.

It was three years ago that Kazakhstani users were denied access to Livejournal for the first time. Then none of the state officials took a responsibility to explain the reasons for filtering, but it was widely believed – unofficially – that the reason was in the blog of Rakhat Aliyev, the former president's son-in-law and media tycoon. He was posting online wire-tapped telephone conversations of the higher government officials there.

Prominent Kazakh Internet enthusiast Constatine Gorojeankin held an investigation [ru] into the matter and concluded that:

… the prosecutor's office failed to mitigate the issue in pre-trial procedures. I am pretty sure that if they asked LiveJournal to suspend an [extremist] blog, it would have been done. Why would the prosecutors demand blockage of the whole resource, not a single blog?

… there are reasons to believe that the judge did not even visit the resources to make sure they really have anything on “extremism and terrorism propaganda”. Otherwise three sites out of fourteen would have been deleted from the court decision simply because they don't exist.

… the Ministry of Information made a grave mistake and blocked the whole website instead of one troubled blog, which is mentioned in the court decision – islamunveiled.livejournal.com.

The news provoked a whirlpool of opinions. Kukayeva says [ru]:

There is a feeling that the Judiciary still sees the Internet as a sort of inconceivable monster. It looks like they don't understand that websites – especially such big fishes like LiveJournal – have management, whose work is to solve problems in a civilized way.

Nikk also points at [ru] the lack of attempts to solve the problem peacefully without a trial:

Strange. Wouldn't it have been easier for the government to email the LiveJournal admins and ask them to remove an illegal account?

AXE is not happy [ru] with the methods of Kazakh officials:

In normal countries [...] the authorities fight extremism in a different way. Here goes an extremist blogger, police captures him, the guy gets jailed and his blog is removed. We have an innovative approach. Why so laborious? Just cut the cable.

Another blogger, megakhuimyak, speaks [ru] about legal vulnerability of the users:

From the point of view of the Kazakhstani legislation, users of any [online] service are do not enjoy legal status. User agreement is not a service provision contract […] In this case we all are deemed as information content consumers, “readers”. State bodies build relationships with the media owners, not taking us into consideration.

Finally, a well-known Twitter user – and also the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan KarimMassimov laconically promised [ru]:

I will sort it out with LJ.

But still, LiveJournal is not accessible from Kazakhstan.

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