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Kazakh veto of media law is welcomed, but Kazakh journalists will still come under limitations imposed by the country's new election law – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

On April 22, 2004 Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev announced that he has vetoed a controversial bill that would have imposed a new range of restrictions on the country's media. Speaking before the Eurasian Media Forum in Almaty, Nazarbaev said he made the decision after the country's Constitutional Council found the bill violated the Kazakh Constitution.

Nazarbaev declined to say whether the bill will be amended and re-submitted for parliamentary approval.

OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis, appearing at the same conference, described Nazarbaev's decision as "very welcome."

“The applause, however, should go the civil society in Kazakhstan, not the President who masterminded the draft law. It's their victory, and it could have never happened without the broad support from the international democratic community. Your expertise, your reports and press statements, your protest letters were crucial for this victory”, - said Rachid Nougmanov, International Freedom Network (France).

Kazakhstan's political opposition and media-rights groups had protested parliament's passage of the media legislation in March. They said the bill's stricter registration and licensing rules amounted to a clampdown on freedom of speech.

Speaking in a video news conference from Washington on April 21, Elizabeth Jones, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, reiterated the U.S. concerns.

"We are [articulate] about our concerns about the mass media legislation that has just been passed in Kazakhstan. We are very concerned about some of the other reform issues. We talk all the time in public and private about political reforms. It's going to be extremely important in terms of the development toward elections in Kazakhstan," - Jones said.

Attacks on the media, including beatings, intimidation, and lawsuits have caused alarm in the international community.

Free-press advocates today applauded Nazarbaev's veto of the media bill. But at the same time they noted that Kazakh journalists will still come under limitations imposed by the country's new election law. Critics say the new law, passed by Nazarbaev last week, will restrict the media's coverage of Kazakhstan's parliamentary elections later this year.

Almaty/Prague, 22 April 2004 (RFE/RL)

April 27, 2004. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,

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