Kazakhstan's Security Services Attempt to Establish Control Over Internet
Kazakhstani authorities seem intent on imposing their control over the internet and telecommunications. On April 20, President Nursultan Nazarbayev called for a media crackdown, accusing the press of inciting interethnic tension. Correspondingly, the government intensified efforts to limit internet freedom.
Reporters Sans Frontières, a media advocacy group, has criticized the Kazakh government for restricting its citizens' Internet access. The organization considers these policies a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Kazakhstan has signed.
The Committee on National Security (KNB) lobbied for a special governmental resolution to establish a system of control over telecommunications. The agency easily persuaded the government, and on November 25, 1999, Resolution 1787 was adopted. It established the Republican Center for Billing Telecommunication Traffic -- a special sub-division of the Ministry for Transport and Communications -- to control global telecommunication networks. The resolution mandated the Center to create a registration system for Internet addresses before January 1, 2000.
Initially, authorities censored local web sites. For example, in late 1999 the KNB forced some Internet service providers to temporarily close the Eurasia Agency site, which had sharply criticized the Kazakh government. After a public outcry ensued, the site was re-opened.
Now all Internet service providers must route their lines through the new state registration system, giving the state and its security apparatus access to information circulated through telecommunications and computer networks. The changes apply not only to Internet service providers, but also to other telecommunications businesses, such as telegraph, telephone, satellite telephone, and paging services. Furthermore, telecommunications purveyors must pay for switching their networks over to the main switchboard.
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Sergei Duvanov is a journalist based in Almaty Kazakhstan.