Authorities in Kazakhstan must stop the cycle of abusing internet shutdowns during critical national moments, and instead ensure people across the country have unfettered internet access throughout the presidential election period.
“We need the government of Kazakhstan to put an end to its attacks on freedom of expression and meticulously-timed attempts to silence people,” said Anastasiya Zhyrmont, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Outreach Coordinator at Access Now. “When millions head to the polls to elect their next president, authorities must guarantee fair and open internet access.”
The government of Kazakhstan has weaponized internet shutdowns since 2018, particularly during critical political moments such as elections and protests, including as recently as January 2022. With the presidential election scheduled for November 20, 2022, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition have reached out to authorities, laying out the concrete steps needed to ensure they, along with internet service providers, uphold people’s rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and more.
“Every person around the world has the right to participate in the democratic process as prepared and informed as they can be,” said Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “All governments and telecom providers must do everything in their power to uphold and protect people’s rights online particularly during these moments that shape a nation’s future — and that begins with safeguarding internet access.”
As authoritarian regimes tighten their grip on internet freedom, it’s vital that companies also step up and help ensure internet access. Through an open letter, Access Now and civil society organizations from across the globe recommend:
Government of Kazakhstan:
- Ensure that the internet remains open, accessible, and secure across Kazakhstan throughout elections, possible civic unrest, and thereafter;
- Stop shutting down, throttling, or blocking the internet, and make a firm commitment to refrain from imposing any unlawful restrictions on internet access and telecommunications in the future;
- Repeal and amend any laws and policies that legitimize internet shutdowns;
- Preserve evidence and reveal any demands from the government of Kazakhstan to disrupt internet access;
- Publicly disclose details such as when the internet and related services have been disrupted; and
- Consult civil society and rally peer companies to jointly push back against government censorship demands, and issue regular transparency reports to ensure open and secure internet access and deter future shutdown orders.
Read the open letter.