'An abuse of power'

Free speech campaigners back Borat

Free speech campaigners have launched a formal protest against the Kazakh government’s censorship of Sacha Baron Cohen.

The pressure group Reporters Without Borders has condemned the authority’s decision to pull the plug on the borat.kz website, on which the comic made sarcastic comments about the central Asian state.

It has written to the international watchdog that oversees domain names calling for it to intervene in the row.

The site was closed earlier this week after Cohen mocked the nation’s threat of legal action over boorish Kazakh reporter Borat, who depicts the county as a backwater where wine is brewed from horse urine, punching cows is a national pastime and women are kept in cages.

‘We've done this so he can't badmouth Kazakhstan under the .kz domain name,’ said Nurlan Isin, President of the Association of Kazakh IT Companies at the time. ‘He can go and do whatever he wants at other domains.’

Reporters Without Borders said the move raised fears about politicians interfering with free speech on the internet

The French-based organisation, which fights for press freedom, called the move ‘an unjustified step that tightens political control over Kazakh online publications’.

‘The role of bodies that manage the country code top-level domain names is above all technical. They are not qualified to censor the contents of sites,’ the organization said in its letter to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)

‘We find however that the Kazakh government sees to it that websites that mock or criticise it are rejected.  In this way, it infringes the principle [that the administration of domain names] should be fair and non discriminatory.

‘We think that an intervention by your organisation would show that it was capable of defending free expression on the internet.

In November, Reporters Without Borders put Kazakhstan on a list of "countries to watch"  because of repeated violations of free expression on the internet.


Published: 15 Dec 2005

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