Kazakhstan simplifies ways citizens can report extremist threats

By Alexander Bogatik

A Shymkent resident September 6 tests the Ministry of Information and Communications website to report extremist material online. [Alexander Bogatik]

A Shymkent resident September 6 tests the Ministry of Information and Communications website to report extremist material online. [Alexander Bogatik]

ASTANA -- Kazakhstan has established a free hotline and website where citizens can report extremist propaganda and potential terrorist threats directly to the relevant authorities.

Astana City Akim's press office announced the new three-digit number on September 2, while Information and Communications Minister Dauren Abayev announced the new webpage August 12.

Reporting extremism online

"Our Ministry's website launched a 'complain' page where any citizen can report about terrorism and extremism propaganda," Abayev announced via Facebook.

"We're primarily talking about sites and groups on social networks that promote suicide [bombings], drugs, terrorism, extremism, the cult of cruelty, ethnic strife, and so forth," he said. "The option allows users to select a type of violation, enter a link to the material and send it to the agency authorised to handle the complaint."

"We tried to simplify the application form as much as possible for users' convenience," Abayev wrote.

The "complaint" section of the Information and Communications Ministry website can be found at:

According to the ministry, all incoming complaints will be reviewed and investigated, and if the content is found to be illegal, the website will be blocked.

In the future, the ministry plans to create a comprehensive database of blocked websites, which will indicate the reason for the ban.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot of material like that online ... something needs to be done about it," said Ivan Korneyev, an information technology specialist from Taraz.

"Not every person will make the effort to go to state agencies or to the police to write a complaint and report extremist materials online," he told Caravanserai. "Having internet services that allow the public to quickly and remotely report illegal content is a great idea."

Tens of thousands of webpages blocked

According to the National Security Committee (KNB), extremist recruitment is primarily conducted from abroad through the internet.

"Groups and individuals have become radicalised under the influence of foreign ideologists ... under the influence of online propaganda," spokesman for the KNB's Anti-terrorism Centre Saken Mynbayev said September 5 at a press briefing in Astana.

Anti-terrorist Centre Chief Janat Saypoldayev said the agency "neutralises" up to 70,000 extremist materials online every month.

The Information and Communications Ministry also reported it has blocked 26,000 websites and links since the beginning of the year, including 2,384 with terrorist propaganda, the ministry's press secretary Arsen Bektasov told journalists in Astana August 3.

"Out of all the extremist material [online], about 40 links and webpages containing messages directly targeting Kazakhstanis are blocked each month," Saypoldayev said.

Express line to report terrorism

Since September 1, Kazakhstanis can dial 110 to report about terror threats to the relevant authorities. Calls are free.

Regardless of where in Kazakhstan the call originates, the local KNB department will handle it.

"If anyone obtains information about planned terror attacks, witnessed, or was recruited or talked into joining radicals, or anyone learns about circulating literature promoting terrorism and religious extremism, they can dial 110," Astana Akim's press office said.

The decision to create an anti-terror hotline was made at a Security Council meeting in Astana June 10, days after the terror attacks in Aktobe.

"Kazakhstan used to have 'helplines' where the public could report a terror threat, but the short, three-digit number that can be dialed in any region of Kazakhstan is very convenient," said Leila Baimanova, head of the Altyn Karpygash association in Shymkent.

"It is still important to raise civic responsibility and explain to people that they shouldn't be indifferent -- everyone who knows anything should immediately report it," she told Caravanserai. "Public trust in the police and empowered agencies is also an important issue. Kazakhstanis currently trust the government and police more and understand the common threat terrorism poses."

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