President Nazarbayev has introduced increasingly severe restrictions on freedom of expression. The work of civil society is obstructed by legislation passed in 2016 to regulate foreign funding received by NGOs. The government’s plans to pass a new media law threatens to further limit independent media. Critical journalists and human rights defenders face trumped-up criminal charges and groundless defamation cases. State surveillance of online communications is pervasive and several social media users have been imprisoned on dubious ‘incitement’ charges. Freedom of assembly is also heavily restricted. Following peaceful demonstrations against land reform in 2016, protest leaders received lengthy jail sentences. Violence and hate speech against LGBT people are prevalent among politicians, the media and society.
ARTICLE 19 works to build resilience of independent journalists, civil society and activists in Kazakhstan to the range of risks they face. We support local lawyers to defend expression related cases through international human rights mechanisms and organise trainings and protection programmes for independent media outlets. Working with local partners, we engage on legislative reform: challenging proposals to introduce new restrictions. We also work to increase participation of LGBT activists in broader civil society initiatives, through capacity building and increasing activists’ abilities to protect themselves when speaking out and challenging hate speech.