Breaking the Silence in Kazakhstan

I’ve just returned from this year’s Eurasian Media Forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where amid the high-level international debates on war reporting, freedom of speech and the nature of objectivity in an age of sophisticated propaganda, one courageous local journalist dared to raise the issue which no one had been talking about: media freedom in Kazakhstan itself.

The Eurasian Media Forum is run by Dariga Nazarbayeva, the daughter of Kazakhstan’s president; she’s also a media magnate and a leading political player in her own right. At a forum on blogging, a young woman stood up in front of the powerful Nazarbayeva and condemned a proposed new law which campaigners claim will put serious restrictions on internet journalists and bloggers and potentially allow the authorities to block sites on political grounds. Wearing a home-made T-shirt which read:Shhh! Censorship in the Room”, Yevgenia Plakhina said that six other activists had just been detained while trying to stage a protest against the planned legislation.

The Eurasian Media Forum is partly meant to demonstrate to the ‘international community’ how open and free Kazakhstan is becoming, despite its post-Soviet political system. Plakhina’s unexpected intervention showed, at least, that while young people are willing to take risks and stand up for their beliefs, there is hope. More on the incident from my colleague Shaun Walker here.