By James Kilner, Central Asia correspondent
3:20PM BST 29 Aug 2011
The potential new regulations are part of a wider attempt by the Kazakh authorities to cut the flow of videos and literature produced by militant Islamists which they blame for fueling extremist violence.
This month a court in Kazakhstan blocked access to the popular Russian blogging platform LiveJournal and other sites because Islamic extremists had been using them. Earlier this year a court also stopped access to the WordPress blogging site for several weeks for similar reasons.
The head of the Kazakh Interior Ministry’s department to combat information technology crime, Erseri Utegaliyev, told the Express-K newspaper that internet cafes in Kazakhstan are favoured by fraudsters and extremists.
‘Basically these things are committed in internet cafes and that is why we are now looking at the idea of monitoring clients using a number of records to show the time of their work and the IP address used,’ he said in an interview published last Thursday.
The Express-K article also described how under the proposed regulations, internet cafes may have to install cameras to video their customers.
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In May, a suicide bomber attacked a security services office in western Kazakhstan. This was the first suicide bomb in Kazakhstan’s 20-year post-Soviet history and the authorities quickly blamed militant Islamists for the attack.
Since then there have been a handful of shootouts between police and gunmen in the west of the country but the authorities, perhaps wary of the potential damage to Kazakhstan’s reputation as the most stable of the five Central Asian states, have been blamed these attacks on criminal gangs rather than militant Islamists.
Cutting militant Islamists’ communication channels is considered vital in defeating extremism but rights groups say internet cenorship in Kazakhstan has gone too far.
On Friday, the Paris-based media lobby group Reporters Without Borders said it was becoming increasingly concerned with Kazakhstan’s heavy-handed internet censorship.
‘It is legitimate to combat terrorism, but this should not result in the closure of independent news websites,’ Reporters without Borders said in a statement.
Western Kazakhstan is particularly vulnerable to militant Islam. It is the focus of Kazakhstan’s important oil and gas industry which has generated much wealth but also created a large income gap.
The region is also only a relatively short boat ride across the Caspian Sea from the North Caucasus where Russia has been fighting militant Islamists for two decades. Recently a number of Kazakhs have been killed fighting alongside militants in the North Caucasus.