IGF 2022 Day 1 Lightning Talk #20 Qazaqstan Shutdown 2022: Restrictions on Digital Rights During and After January Events

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> MODERATOR: Hello, everyone. I work as a project coordinator in digital paradigm public foundation in Qazaqstan. Let me introduce to you our main topic today. It is Qazaqstan shutdown, 2022. Restrictions on digital rights during and after the January events. This topic is actually based on the special report that we prepared within our organization. With cooperation and partnership with the local Qazaqstan experts.

Now, I will present to you today's speakers. The first will be Yelzhan Kabyshev. He's the head of digital paradigm public foundation. And next I'm glad to present to you the founder of digital foundation, Ruslan Daiyrbekov. And our third speaker is joining us online today. Her name is Diana Okremova. Yelzhan is going to give us precise information about internet shut down. Can share about privacy and personal data. And Diana can share her expertise about access to information and the freedom of expression during the Qazaqstan shutdown 2022. And before I give the word to our speakers, let us please demonstrate one short video that we've prepared about internet shut down. It is in the Russian language but there will be English subtitles.

[Video – English subtitles on screen]

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. This was our video. And now I can give the word to our first speaker. Yelzhan Kabyshev.

>> YELZHAN KABYSHEV: Thank you very much. Hello, everyone. My name is Yelzhan Kabyshev. I'm the director of digital public foundation. And we have created a special report about shut down in January in Qazaqstan. Named Qazaqstan Shutdown 2022. You can check the full report on the web site by scanning QR code or by clicking this link. Next slide please.

We have created a report published in Russian, English and Qazaq language to everyone.

I'd like to begin my speech -- total internet shut down. The president of the public of Qazaqstan adopted a degree of a state of emergency. It was mentioned that blocking access to internet is legal and one of the measures taken by the law about state of emergency. Next slide please.

As a matter of fact, the internet in Qazaqstan is centralized and most of the control over the Qaznet is in the hands of a few government organizations. Committee of nation security. On January 5th, the population was feeling -- and along with deficit of information, panic was emerging. Only exceptions were mobile calls and exchange SMS. In the period of January, the government gave access to the internet. On January 8th, governmental media web sites of banks became accessible to sit dens. And only on January 10th, the internet was fully unblocked by the regime weighs continued. The internet like freedom of expression, freedom of speech, access to information. And for your information, 94 online materials viewed as dissemination of wrong information and social development in January. And it affected the lives and health messengers and a lot of people got disconnected from each other in our city. It influenced 700,000 people with disabilities. Communication methods available and short text messages exchange were not sufficient of the maintenance of normal life of certain categories of citizens with permanent disabilities and mobility impairment as well as others. And our key recommendations related to a total internet shut down in the future. The state should take into consideration resolutions July 7th, 2021 and May 13, 2022 of the UN human rights Council as well as other international standards in the field of human rights. The state is recommended to sync our possibilities to maintain safety for protection, life and health of each population without internet shut down and make relevant amendments into legislation.

Otherwise, human rights on opinion and expression to information and other land rights and freedoms might be restricted in crisis or quarantine. Important information could become critical. And right now, the internet is not a privilege. It's a necessity.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. It was very informative. Ruslan.

>> RUSLAN DAIYRBEKOV: Hi, everyone. It's my great pleasure to be here with you. I'm Ruslan Daiyrbekov. I'm a founder of foundation. And contributed to the special report on two major subjects about the special legal aspects of that protection, processing and illegal practice of inspecting and checking the contents of mobile phones during the state of emergency. Very important to share with you our findings of personal data violation in Qazaqstan. In terms of legal aspects of processing data in state of emergency, as the government collect and evidentiary records with the use of video monitoring system, national system and hardware devices design to collect for video materials to resolve matters of ensuring national security. But, there is a point photo and video materials collected by the system should not be considerate as personal biometric data.

Operator doesn't use them for the purpose of personal identification. But law enforcement and special agencies use this materials for the identification on specific person based on his physiological and biological features. Instead of emergency, evidence fixation as well as identification of potential committers may be considerate only in the framework of criminal process. National legislations prohibits using illegal actions and disclosing data which relate to the right to privacy. As a result of special report, it was strongly recommended to the government of Qazaqstan to inspect the national monitoring system for the presence of guarantees and protecting the right to the privacy.

And also, I would like to inform you about inspection of the mobile phones under the state of emergency. In January, Qazaqstan imposed a number of temporary restrictive measures which allows checking ID documents as well as personal items and personal transportations. We were strongly concerned about the facts when citizens faced a personal search of the content of mobile funs conducted by police officers. And regardless of the right to check personal belongings, may not inspect forms as there can be some data referred to personal privacy. In addition, certain correspondence can contain information on marital or commercial secrecy. And summing up, should be also note that it's necessary to exclude situations that pose risk of arbitrary interference in private life under the state of emergency. And it was strongly recommended to delete all data collected during inspections immediately upon the end of the state of emergency. So no data can be misused. Thank you very much.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Now over to Diana Okremova. She's on zoom.

>> DIANA OKREMOVA: Yes, hi. I cannot switch on my video, because organizer stopped it. Is that okay?

>> MODERATOR: Can you turn it on?

>> DIANA OKREMOVA: Hi, everyone. Do you hear me?

>> MODERATOR: Yes, we hear you. Absolutely.

>> DIANA OKREMOVA: Okay. I'm happy to be with you now. Unfortunately, not in real. I am in the East of Qazaqstan. And temperature here is minus 37. So Zoom is also good. Hope your conditions are better than mine. Thank the organizers for the session and possibility to tell about what happened during January event in Qazaqstan. With freedom of speech and access to information.

As you know, events resulted in certain restrictions including freedom of online opinion and expression. Many representatives of the civil society came under pressure by the law. Detainments, and enforcements, arrests of journalists and bloggers, physical attacks and blockage of information web sites. All these reflects violations of the rights to the freedom of opinion and expression. Also, I have to say that access to public information was quite difficult.

However, our government understood that keeping people and information is not a good idea. Could produce more problem. So when internet was blocked, the sit dens of Qazaqstan received information through the TV channels. Mostly governmental channels. And to protect journalists advised Qazaqstan to allow journalists their pre-coverage of events and ensure security from officials and protestors. So the access to information under state of emergency was restrict on various levels. Mainly focused on the information regarding the grounds and office of the events as well as -- so our main recommendation. The state must be liable foreign insuring safety and security of journalists. And must not prohibit journalists to cover national protest by threatening their freedom. The state must contend against unreliable or call into violence information. But at the same time, it should be a right, freedom of opinion and expression as set for by the core principles.

Also important to bring the laws and practice of Qazaqstan associated with the freedom of opinion and expression and also in the health of digital rights to the full compliance with the international commitments. And, of course, we recommended to contribute to the maximum disclosure of the information if it's of high public concern. So I hope that I tried to use my three minutes. Thank you for attention. And I will be glad to answer any questions.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We can now move to our questions and answer section. We are a bit short on our time but we will be really happy to answer any questions. From you or from Zoom. I see a hand. Can you connect?

We still can't hear you. Let me read the question. How do you evolve the situation with freedom of speech after the January events. Is there any improvements or decline?

I believe this question is suitable for Diana to answer.

>> DIANA OKREMOVA: Sorry. A question from Idris, yes?


>> DIANA OKREMOVA: How do you evaluate the situation with freedom of speech. Okay. I can try to answer. I think the situation is getting better now. After January events, we have many new sources of information. For example, telegram channels. One side is good that we have many dependent. Another side, they are mainly not professional. And not of good professional journalist level. That's why people often get fake news and nonobjective information. And also the second question, can I say?

It's a question to Yelzhan Kabyshev. What measures should be taken to prevent similar situations in the future when digital rights are being restricted everywhere?

>> YELZHAN KABYSHEV: Thank you for question. I should say that I mentioned our recommendations. How to prevent the violations of human rights in Qazaqstan. Unfortunately, we have in our legislation to block web sites and to the whole internet. We need to change. And shut down internet. And I think we need to change on communications where 2016 is introduced in Qazaqstan and we had three or two times of a piled project in capital when providers was sharing certificate. Unfortunately, all internal and external traffic is under surveillance. And we should change our legislations in this to make our freedom in the internet more free.

>> RUSLAN DAIYRBEKOV: With additional rights violations including privacy, I think it's very important to review legislation foreign insuring that as a right to privacy is guaranteed by the government. Especially under the state of emergency. And I think has to conduct monitoring of how procedures which is already exist actually in national legislation. And also foreign insuring guarantees how to protect the right to privacy and how this right is implemented in the national legislations.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you. I see the hand.

>> AUDIENCE:  My question is what do you think from your perspective, what is the probability of such a shut down in the future in Qazaqstan?

>> YELZHAN KABYSHEV: If we don't change legislation, of course, maybe we will have shut down in Qazaqstan. A couple days ago or three or four days ago, was shut down. Because of meeting or something like that. And for now, we have that because of our block internet because of providers how they are working. They don't share information about blocking their web sites or the whole internet. We have a low quality of administration and social development.

Because we, for now, we have needs communications between our ministry who can block the web sites and administrators of web sites. They do not communicate. We are working party -- and we had sent recommendations to prevent human rights like freedom of expression to make communicate ministry of information and web site. About shut down. So, we need to change two laws. Statute emergency and communications. Maybe would be hard work but maybe we can change it.

>> RUSLAN DAIYRBEKOV: And it's kind of unfortunate. It's clear for us that the government in future can use internet shutdowns like a digital tools, of course, to somehow control and violate our rights. So unfortunately, there is a higher level of probability.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We have one or two minutes more for another question.

>> AUDIENCE: How? How do you change laws of this nature in Qazaqstan? Now that you are making these recommendations, what are the opportunities realistically engaging government?

How do you do it?

>> RUSLAN DAIYRBEKOV: We are constantly involved in the low drafting process in Qazaqstan. And, of course, we are not proud but we think that this opportunity to be involved in the low drafting process from the civil society sector is unique opportunity for us to recommend this mention the recommendations.

Of course, not all recommendations can be implemented by the low drafters. At least we have opportunity to say in public. And from time to time, they use the only norms which has not imperative but declarative characters. We have some good examples and when we were members of working group of that protection law, draft law. And so many positive legal provisions being included to the law, and this is just some little access. We are struggling to be involved to change to recommend. It should be known that the government at least make some opportunity for civil society to say it publicly. And we have opportunity to send them our recommendations in this regard.

>> MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you very much. I believe we are really short in our time right now. And we have to close today's talk. It was like a great pleasure for us to be at the IGF to tell you about more about Qazaqstan, Qazaqstan shutdown. It was a great pleasure. Thank you to all of you.

>> Thank you very much.

>> DIANA OKREMOVA: Thank you. Bye bye.