IGF 2022 Lightning Talk #20 Qazaqstan Shutdown 2022: Restrictions on Digital Rights During and After January Events

Tuesday, 29th November, 2022 (11:35 UTC) - Tuesday, 29th November, 2022 (11:55 UTC)
Speaker's Corner

"Digital Paradigm" Public Foundation
Yelzhan Kabyshev - "Digital Paradigm" PF

Ruslan Daiyrbekov - "Eurasian Digital Foundation" PF

Dana Mukhamedzhanova - KazGUU (M.Narikbayev KAZGUU University)

Vadim Melyakov - "Digital Paradigm" PF

Diana Okremova - director of "Legal media-center" PF 


Yelzhan Kabyshev - director of "Digital Paradigm" PF

Ruslan Daiyrbekov - founder of "Eurasian Digital Foundation" PF

Dana Mukhamedzhanova - professor of KazGUU (M.Narikbayev KAZGUU University)

Vadim Melyakov - analytic of "Digital Paradigm" PF

Diana Okremova - director of "Legal media-center" PF

Onsite Moderator

Diana Okremova - director of "Legal media-center" PF

Online Moderator

Dana Mukhamedzhanova - KazGUU (M.Narikbayev KAZGUU University)


Vadim Melyakov - "Digital Paradigm" PF



Targets: According to SDG 16.10, the following is stated: "Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements". The total shutdown of the Internet negatively affects the achievement of this goal, namely: - Internet shutdown negatively affects not only civil and political rights, but also social, economic and cultural human rights; - during the shutdown, it is impossible to use online services, including public ones, in terms of exercising the right to access information; - emphasizing that during the lack / absence of information about ongoing events in the country, it can negatively affect the life and health of people. Many people, especially in Almaty (the hottest place during the January events) suffered from a lack of information, went out into the streets and were killed or seriously injured.



Duration (minutes)



In January 2022, in Kazakhstan was a total shutdown of the Internet. No online services, banking applications, media sites were available. The shutdown of the Internet, according to the authorities, was carried out in order to counteract communication between "terrorists and bandits". However, in our opinion, turning off the Internet was a disproportionate measure of the state, which led to the impossibility of exercising human rights in the digital environment. Almost the entire population of the country, including people with disabilities, suffered from the shutdown (the section “Digital Inclusion” is dedicated separately in a special report). In connection with the shutdown of the Internet, fixing restrictions and violations of human rights, the initiative group - experts from the Digital Rights and Freedoms Landscape of Kazakhstan - created a special report “Qazaqstan Shutdown 2022: Restrictions on Digital Rights During and After January Events" (https://drfl.kz/shutdown2022/en).

1. The moderator can be the link between online and offline participants. If questions arise, the moderator will interact with the speakers. 2. The session participants are expected to talk about the following topics: - Internet shutdown (introductory topic so that the participants of the session understand the context of events) (5 minutes); - violations and restrictions of privacy during the January events (the topic will be disclosed about the national video monitoring system and checking mobile devices) (5 minutes); - digital inclusion (what difficulties did people with disabilities face during the shutdown) (5 minutes); - At the end of the session, a discussion is planned - open communication with the participants of the session (5 minutes). 3.We will need: - ZOOM application to share presentation with participants; - presentation projector; - clicker.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

National states bear the primary responsibility for ensuring human rights-based approaches when it comes to shutting down the Internet. Above all, they must refrain from introducing shutdowns, maximize access to the Internet, and remove most of the barriers to communication. Companies, NGOs, development agencies and civil society also have a role to play in ending the shutdowns and minimizing their impact.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Lightning talk session #20 has been opened by presenting the main topic: Qazaqstan Shutdown 2022: Restrictions on Digital Rights During and After January Events and 3 speakers on the topic from Kazakhstan. Moderator also announced that the topic was based on the special report that was prepared and issued within the public foundation with cooperation and partnership with local experts. January internet shutdown affected the whole country in numerous ways. The panelists witnessed the internet shutdown themselves and were able to document in a special report violations, limitations and consequences in 8 main areas. The experts described how the total shutdown of the Internet throughout the country affected various aspects of human rights, in particular, information was provided on the Internet shutdown, digital inclusion, privacy and personal data, as well as access to information and freedom of expression.

After a short introduction to the topic of discussion, each speaker shared expertise on one of the highlighted topics.

Yelzhan Kabyshev was the first panelist and comprehensively covered the general information on internet shutdown and its major outtakes. As a matter of fact the internet in Kazakhstan is centralized and most of the control is in the hands of a few governmental organizations - Kazakhtelecom, governmental technical support and the Committee of National Security. Starting from January 5th the population of the biggest city in Qazaqstan, Almaty felt like they got into a complete vacuum, lacking any information. Access to the internet was restored only on January 10. Internet shutdown restricted a whole host of human rights, including, inter alia, freedom of opinion and expression, and right to participate in public affairs, and also influenced economic and social rights, in particular diminishing rights of people with disabilities, as well as the right to a fair trial in courts (since due to pandemic restrictions most cases are considered online via messengers), and other rights.

Second speaker of the lightning talk session Ruslan Daiyrbekov presenting his contribution to the special report on two major subjects: legal aspects of data protection and illegal practice of inspecting the contents of mobile phones during the state of emergency. Violation of privacy and personal data did occur in Kazakhstan during January events. Article 15 of the Law “On State of Emergency” allows checking personal identification documents as well as inspecting personal items and transport vehicles. In an attempt to analyze if the actions of officials who conducted such inspections were lawful, we should consult the effective laws of Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan, as from the 6th of January, social networks started publishing numerous complaints of the citizens who had faced personal search and inspection of the contents of their phones conducted by police officers. For instance, one of such cases was described in the Instagram account named “Almaty Complaints”. Governmental bodies must be liable for the cases of illegal actions of authorized officials who under the state of emergency have access and levers of influence. It is required to apply effective tools and remedies to protect victims of any free-hand inspections of mobile phone contents or personal searches.

Diana Okremova joined the lightning talk online and gave her speech through Zoom about access to information and freedom of expression during January shutdown in Kazakhstan. The access to information under the state of emergency was restricted on various levels and in various spheres. Although, on the other hand, it is worth noting the fact that Kazakhstanis could still receive some of the information through television programs, mainly government-controlled ones. Such restrictions were mainly focused on the information regarding the grounds and authors of the tragic events, as well as the number of those dead and injured. That said, article 6 of the Law “On Access to Information” contains a provision that prohibits any restrictions of information on emergency situations that threaten the safety and security of people, on the facts of terroristic activities, on the state of fire safety, and so on.

After the speakers' presentations, the moderator moved to the questions section. Questions that arose within the Speakers room were about improvement of the situation with freedom of speech after the January events, and also about the probability of such a shutdowns in the future of Kazakhstan. Another set of questions were about how exactly civil society and NGOs can affect the laws in Kazakhstan in order to reduce the negative impacts of shutdowns and other information restrictions. All of the above questions were addressed and well answered by the speakers.

Internet is a necessity, not a privilege and it is impossible to promote peaceful and inclusive societies with sustainability when the government creates restrictive measures banning people from necessities like internet access. With this message, the session came to its conclusion.