Access to Public Information, Content Regulation / Censorship, Hate Speech, Public Order, Religious Expression
Chopra v. West Bengal
Closed Contracts Expression
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A Kazakh court held that the government’s interest in preventing the publication of articles that allegedly incited social strife outweighs freedom of speech. Based on the opinion of an expert study of several articles by Respublika, the validity of which the media company contested, the court wrote that the publications violated Kazakhstan’s civil and constitutional laws and thus upheld the Ministry of Justice’s stop order on the platform.
The Ministry of Justice ordered Respublika, a media company that publishes on over a dozen websites and several newspapers, to stop its print and online publications because they incited social strife and called for a violent overthrow of the government of Kazakhstan. The Ministry of Justice made its determination based on a psycho-philological expert study of several publications by Respublika. The analyzed publications, also reviewed by the first instance and appellate courts, concerned the Zhanozen violence in Kazakhstan, criticized the government of Kazakhstan, and in one instance called for the people of Kazakhstan to free those arrested due to the violence.
Respublika continued to publish despite the order of the Ministry of Justice. Hence, the Ministry took the case to court. The first instance and appellate courts upheld the Ministry of Justice’s order, and ordered Respublika media outlets to stop their publications in Kazakhstan, citing constitutional and civil law violations (Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Article 3 and 20).
The decision of the court of first instance was in large part based on the opinion of the expert committee that determined that Respublika’s content contained extremist material. Respublika questioned the validity of the expert decision with the court of first instance. The court ruled against Respublika, stating that Respublika failed to provide proof that the expert opinion was made in violation of the laws of the Kazakh Republic.
The court also ruled that Respublika is a single civil entity, despite belonging to a Russian media company and having several dozen publications. The court made its determination on the basis that the editing body of the Respublika platforms was one single entity and that its online publications often reproduced the publications in print.
Respublika argued at the court of first instance that the Ministry of Justice’s order to shut down violated the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. The Court of first instance included Respublika’s argument in its decision, but the court did not address the allegation.
Therefore, the court upheld the Ministry of Justice’s stop order on Respublika’s publications of material that “incited social strife and called for a violent overthrow of the Kazakh government.”
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case contracts expression because it restricts freedom of the media by ordering a media company to stop its activities in Kazakhstan because several of its articles incited social strife and called for a violent overthrow of the Kazakh government, in violation of civil and constitutional law.
The most worrying aspect of the case is the court’s reliance on an opinion of a committee created by the Ministry of Justice to analyze Respublika’s content for extremism.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.