Sanat Dosov, a 46-year-old social activist and entrepreneur from Aktobe, Kazakhstan, was sentenced to 3 years in a penal colony for insulting Russian President Vladimir Putin on social media. Dosov has reportedly called Putin a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘fascist’, and shared a meme where Putin is presented next to notorious former communist leaders Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin.
Dosov was convicted under Article 174 of the Kazakh criminal code banning the incitement of ‘social, national, generic, racial, class, or religious hatred’ or insulting ‘the national honour and dignity of religious feelings of citizens’.
Dosov frequently criticized Putin on social media, particularly with regard to Ukraine and Syria. He had pleaded guilty and sought leniency in sentencing, referring to his 6 children. He intends to appeal the sentence.
In November 2016, Human rights defenders Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan were sentenced in Kazakhstan to 5 years in prison for organizing peaceful protests and publishing critical posts on Facebook.
According to the Freedom House’s Freedom of the Net report for the year 2016, Kazakhstan is marked as ‘Not Free’. Social Media platforms are being blocked, political and social content is being censored and bloggers are being arrested for expressing their opinions online. The press freedom in the state is also marked as not free.
According to the report, social media and communication apps were throttled during widespread land reform protests in May 2016. Additionally, content hosting platforms, such as Tumblr and Sound Cloud, were blocked by authorities in order to ‘block extremist content’. The report presents another worrying development for internet users’ privacy in Kazakhstan:
“The regulator adopted a new internet monitoring technology, the Automated System of Monitoring the National Information Space… A National Security Certificate was introduced, technology which will potentially allow authorities greater access to user data”
Dosov’s unjustified sentence is another worrying sign for Kazakhstan’s crackdown on freedom of expression online.