Civil society reports internet shutdowns in two cities in Kazakhstan during February 28 protests

Access Now received a report from Internet Protection Society, Russia that an internet shutdown was detected in two major Kazakhstan cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan on February 28, 2021, from approximately 14:00 to 17:00 local time. Foreign media organizations, as well local groups like Media Alliance and Legal Media Center, Kazakhstan, have also reported that the shutdown took place. Measurements from the Internet Outage Detection and Analysis (IODA) system also indicate network disruptions during the relevant time period.

The shutdown coincides with the anti-government protests in several Kazakh cities calling for the release of political prisoners, following a resolution passed by the European Parliament on human rights in the country. The authorities responded with violence and detained approximately 50 protesters. 

“The shutdown reported in Kazakhstan follows a persistent trend of authorities in the country — and the Central Asia region as a whole — not being afraid to use any means necessary to restrict people’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly online and off,” Natalia Krapiva, Tech-legal Counsel at Access Now, said. “Despite promises of reforms, website blockings and shutdowns remain the go-to tools to respond to political instability. However, as the #KeepItOn coalition has shown, shutdowns only make things worse, not better.”

There have also been reports of shutdowns in other cities where the protests took place, such as Atyrau, but no measurements are currently available to confirm these accounts. 

“Authorities must desist from imposing internet shutdowns, which are in violation of international human rights law and standards, in order to quell protests,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “The right to freedom of expression and assembly are guaranteed by the national constitution of Kazakhstan as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Kazakhstan is signatory to.”  

Kazakhstan has a long history of repression, website blockings, and internet shutdowns associated with protests and political instability in the country. If you have more information about the recent shutdown in Kazakhstan or any future shutdowns, please let us know through our Shutdown Stories Project form, available in Russian.

For more information on internet shutdowns happening around the world, see our recently released report.