This report provides an overview of freedom of expression developments in Russia and Kazakhstan in 2016 by analyzing a select, but diverse, set of cases concerning online speech, hate speech, anti-extremism, intermediary liability, and other free expression themes.
Overall, it was noted that in the two countries, freedom of expression continues to decline. Courts remain reliant on using national security and anti-extremism laws to justify limitations on speech. For instance, at the time of writing this report, in Russia, were 398 convictions related to crimes of incitement to extremism in Russia in 2016, compared to only 149 convictions for similar crimes in 2011.
Moreover, although the use of international or regional norms by Russian and Kazakh courts in adjudicating cases has been noted, these norms are not properly applied, and are mentioned merely to justify limitations on speech. For example, in the The Case of Max Kebenuly Bokaev and Talgat Tulepkalievich Ayanov the court cited Article 20 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which imposes limitations on racists and hate speech, to rule that the two activists incited hatreds towards ethnic Chinese by mentioning government plans to sell land to China, and possibly influx of Chinese immigrants to Kazakhstan as a result of the sale.