Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are appalled by the internet shutdowns at the hands of authorities and telecommunications providers in the first weeks of January 2022. Through an open letter to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the coalition is demanding action, and the assurance of open, accessible internet for all across Kazakhstan.
“It was a disgraceful start to 2022 — shutting down the internet when people needed it most,” said Anastasiya Zhyrmont, Eastern Europe & Central Asia Regional Outreach Coordinator at Access Now. “These prolific attacks on freedom of speech and access to information must not set a precedent for the year ahead in Kazakhstan. The #KeepItOn coalition is demanding the nation set a better standard.”
From January 2 until January 11, 2022, authorities in Kazakhstan toyed with internet access in response to protests. The disconnect from outside countries provided cover for escalating violence, and the state’s crackdown on civil unrest.
“Internet shutdowns don’t happen by chance,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “They are calculated, destructive tools designed to exert power, and deny populations their agency. They also require cooperation — telcos must fight back against government shutdown orders, and do everything in their power to uphold human rights.”
Through an open letter, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are issuing a series of recommendations, including:
The Government of Kazakhstan:
- Ensure that the internet, including social media and other digital communication platforms, remains open, accessible, and secure across Kazakhstan throughout the civic unrest and thereafter;
- Stop shutting down, throttling, or blocking the internet, and make a state pledge to refrain from imposing any unlawful restrictions on internet access and telecommunication in the future;
- Work in collaboration with internet service providers to ensure everyone has access to quality, secure, free, and open internet; and
- Uphold the fundamental human rights of the people of Kazakhstan.
- Publicly denounce internet shutdowns and disruptions and highlight their devastating impact;
- Preserve evidence and reveal any demands from the government of Kazakhstan urging you to disrupt internet access;
- Contest the legality of internet shutdown orders in court; and
- Consult civil society and rally peer companies to jointly push back against government censorship demands.
Read the open letter.