The Right to Freedom of Speech and the Receipt of Information

In the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the right to freedom of speech and creativity is guaranteed, censorship is forbidden, and the right of everyone to receive and distribute information by any means not forbidden by law is reinforced.

Moreover, limitations also exist, accepted in international practice. Paragraph 3 of Article 20 of the Constitution of RK does not allow propaganda of or agitation for the forcible change of the constitutional system, violation of the integrity of the Republic, undermining of state security, and advocating war, social, racial, national, religious, class and clannish superiority as well as the cult of cruelty and violence.

These freedoms, rights and limitations are repeated in Article 2 of the Law of RK “On Tools of Mass Information.”

One of the most important instruments for the realization of the right and freedom of citizens to information is the mass media.

In Kazakhstan, over the last years cardinal transformation in the sphere of the activity of the mass media have been executed. Privatization of the mass media sector occurred, the result of which, today more than 80% of mass media is nongovernmental.
Market reforms have resulted in the growth in quantity and quality of instruments of mass media. Kazakhstan today leads the majority of countries of Central Asia and Transcaucasia in the pace of mass media development. The fact that the Annual Eurasia Media Forum is held in the country testifies to Kazakhstan’s leadership in the development of media infrastructures.

Nevertheless, in practice, instances of the limitation of freedom of speech of citizens have arisen. As noted by some NGOs, in Kazakhstan there have been instances of the violation of the human right to freedom of speech. There have been isolated instances of the death of journalists, and some instances of the bodily injury of representatives of instruments of mass information.

Data from the sociological survey “Human Rights in Kazakhstan: The General Opinion.” witnesses to the restriction of the right of citizens to freedom of speech. Of 1500 respondents to the question, “How do you assess the situation in the sphere of the protection of the right of citizens to freedom of speech?” 27,3 % gave a negative assessment of the governmental mechanism for the protection of the constitutional right of citizens to freedom of speech, 51,7% gave a positive assessment, and 21,0% of respondents had difficulty in answering. The results of the sociological survey lead to drawing the conclusion regarding the necessity to improve legislation and law-enforcement practices in regard to mass media in Kazakhstan, in compliance with international standards.

A significant event in the year 2006 was the approval on June 25, 2006, of the Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the Concept of Civil Society Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan in the years 2006-2011.
The Concept defines the basic direction of development of institutions of civil society and the possibilities of realization of civil initiatives, and has become a basis for the development of target programs and legislative and other normative legal acts, directed toward the creation of favorable conditions for the functioning of institutions of civil society.

The main objective of the Concept is the further improvement of the legislative, social-economic and organizational basis for the comprehensive development of institutions of civil society and their equivalent partnership with the government and business sector in compliance with international legal instruments within the framework of international treaties and covenants in the area of human rights and the human dimension.

With the goal of the realization of the Concept of Civil Society Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan in the years 2006-2011, an Outline of Measures for the Realization of the Concept of Civil Society Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for the years 2006-2011 was prepared and approved September 30, 2006 by the Government of RK.

With the aim of guaranteeing the Constitutional right of citizens to freedom of speech and the receipt of information, we recommend that the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan implement the following measures in the period of 2009-2011:

  1. Improve legislation regulating the activities of mass media, taking into consideration international legislation in the sphere of human rights, ratified by the Republic of Kazakhstan.
  2. With the aim of fully guaranteeing the constitutional right of citizens to the receipt of information, in 2011 develop and pass the Law “On the Access of Citizens to Information.”
  3. Strengthen legislative responsibility (material, administrative, criminal) of officials and individuals who hinder the legal activity of journalists and other representatives of implements of mass media.
  4. Halting the activity of an implement of mass media should be allowed only by decision of the court.
  5. Legislatively establish limitation periods regarding matters of the protection of honor and dignity.
  6. Strengthen instruments of cooperation with governmental agencies and institutions of civil society and create favorable conditions for the effective realization of the governmental social decree.