Tokayev’s five years in Kazakhstan marked by unkept promises, more media censorship

As Kassym-Jomart Tokayev completes his fifth year as Kazakhstan’s president, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns his increasingly oppressive rule and urges him to finally keep his pledges to improve press freedom and allow free and independent journalism.

“Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's fifth year as president was marked by more censorship of independent and critical media. Despite a reformist discourse that he has repeated constantly since 2019, giving undertakings to promote media freedom, the president has never acted accordingly. On the contrary, he has even copied Russian oppressive measures in order to crack down even more on media freedom. RSF denounces this pretence of freedom and urges him to finally keep his pledges.

Jeanne Cavelier
Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk

Despite an apparent resistance to the growing influence of Kremlin propaganda in Central Asia, Kazakhstan has cracked down harder on independent media, implementing several measures directly inspired by its Russian neighbour’s oppressive legislation.

For example, parliament adopted a law on fake news in September 2023 and the finance ministry has labelled media and journalists receiving subsidies from foreign organisations as “foreign agents.”

At the same time, Parliament is actively continuing its efforts to ratify media censorship. Amendments to the media bill introduced by the president in September 2022 – which would allow the foreign ministry to prevent foreign media and their journalists from being accredited if it decides they pose a “threat to national security” – were adopted by a working group on 25 January 2024.

The next day, the ministry used these grounds to deny accreditation to 36 reporters working for Radio Azattyk, the Kazakh-language service of the US broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). After RFE/RL appealed against this refusal, RSF was not allowed to remotely attend the hearings on 26 February and 12 March. The next hearing is due to take place on 27 March.

The Tokayev government has also stepped up online censorship, repeatedly blocking the websites of international media such as the Daily Mail and Vice News, and local ones such as Radio Azattyk.

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