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Kazakhstan passes media law amid concerns over freedom of speech

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows a newsstand in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Kazakhstan has pushed through a raft of controversial amendments to a media law despite concerns that the new legislation will further limit freedom of speech in the nation.

The Central Asian country's long-reigning president Nursultan Nazarbayev, 77, had signed into law amendments "aimed at improving legislation on information and communication issues," his office said on Thursday.

Among the changes was one demanding news websites identify users posting comments under articles and retain their data for a period of three months.

Another controversial amendment obliges journalists to receive permission from persons mentioned in their articles to publish information that could be classified as "personal, family, medical, banking, commercial and other legally protected secrets."

Kazakhstan-based media rights group Adil Soz has called the new legislation "a law to protect corrupt officials," which makes media "defenseless against baseless accusations."

Kazakhstan's government had journalists and civil activists involved in discussion of the law but ultimately ignored key objections.

The law earlier sailed through both houses in Kazakhstan's parliament.

Nazarbayev has ruled over Kazakhstan since before independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

(Source: AFP)

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