Nations in Transit
Nations in Transit 2010
In 2009 Kyrgyzstan experienced a wave of attacks against independent journalists and a decrease in the ability of news media to criticize government policies. Kazakhstan failed to liberalize its media law in keeping with its commitments to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the use of libel suits to punish investigative journalists continued to mar the country’s record on press freedom. In new EU member states political pressure, harassment of journalists, and corruption were widely noted in 2009. In Serbia, hastily adopted legislation that may weaken the independence of the media raised concerns of increased self-censorship and pressure on journalists. While in Montenegro, public attacks against media figures were also taken to the legal system where disproportionate fines put additional pressure on the media. A number of countries also saw an increase in restrictions on Internet freedom. In both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the government crafted legislation classifying Web sites as mass media outlets, exposing them to the same restrictions that already applied to traditional media. During protests and police violence that followed Moldova’s contentious election in April 2009, the government blocked a number of Web sites, with a particular focus on social-networking sites. While Russia’s Internet generally retains a good deal of openness, on several fronts the authorities are insinuating themselves into the medium. The effort includes the acquisition of blogging platforms and popular Web sites by Kremlin-friendly companies and the emergence of commentators and provocateurs who subvert online discourse.