On 26 November 2015, amendments to the RK Mass Media Law dated 1999 (the "Mass Media Law") were published, the most significant of them relate to the Internet resources.
In Kazakhstan, Internet resources constitute mass media. Until the recent amendments to the legislation all that the "traditional" mass media (newspapers, magazines, TV) had in common with the Internet resources was liability for dissemination of information in violation of the legislation of Kazakhstan (in the form of suspension or discontinuation of release/access to the Internet resources). By the recent amendments the legislator decided to equate the Internet resources with other mass media in respect to a number of basic requirements.
I. Internet resources are subject to registration
From 1 January 2016 Internet resources, as other mass media, are subject to mandatory registration.
Comprehensive reading of a number of new provisions of the Mass Media Law suggests that Internet resources are subject to mandatory registration, when the following two conditions are concurrently met:
- information and communication infrastructure ("IC-infrastructure") of the Internet resource is in the territory of Kazakhstan; and
- the Internet resource operates in the territory of Kazakhstan.
IC-infrastructure of Internet resources
IC-infrastructure includes hardware and software systems, telecommunication networks, and systems ensuring uninterrupted functioning of technical equipment and information security. Please note that the systems of ensuring functioning of technical equipment and information security may also include IT-staff that supports the Internet resource.
Operation of Internet resources in the territory of Kazakhstan
Given that this provision applies not only to Internet resources, but also to other types of mass media, we believe that it is related to the availability of the Internet resource to the audience of Kazakhstan.
Amendments to the Mass Media Law, in our opinion, do not apply to those Internet resources, which do not have IC-infrastructure in the RK territory. The issue remains controversial in respect to the Internet resources, at least part of the infrastructure of which is in the RK territory.
The condition of access of the Internet resource can be understood both narrowly and broadly. A broad interpretation of this condition may mean that the Internet resource is available to users from the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
We note that if one of the above conditions is absent, the Internet resource is not subject to registration.
Procedure for registration of Internet resources
When registering an Internet resource, its owner must provide the following information: information about the owner of the resource, its place of residence or location, the language of the Internet resource, the expected frequency of release, the main thematic scope, geographical coverage, the name of the editor, the address of the editorial office. These data must also be specified in one of the sections of the Internet resource.
An Internet resource may elect any language or multiple languages. There is no requirement to translate the content of the Internet resource into Russian and/or Kazakh languages. However, if the Internet resource contains information for Kazakhstan consumers, such information must be provided in the Kazakh and Russian languages. This requirement follows from the legislation on the rights of consumers.
An application for registration should be filed with the Committee for Communication, Information and Informatization of the Ministry of Investment and Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan (the "Communication Committee").
An Internet resource is subject to re-registration in case of change of the owner, change of the name of the owner, change of the name of the Internet resource, the language, the geographical coverage, or the main thematic scope.
Liability for violation of the legislation on mass media
Concurrently with the amendments to the Mass Media Law, amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences were made. Now administrative responsibility is envisioned for distribution of materials of the Internet resource when such Internet resource is not registered. The punishment for this offence is only a fine.
The grounds for suspension/termination of the issue/release of mass media, including the Internet resource, remain unchanged. Suspension and termination of the release is possible in the case of the dissemination of information prohibited by the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Suspension or termination of access to an Internet resource is only possible by a court decision. The General Prosecutor of the Republic of Kazakhstan and his deputies may suspend an Internet resource up to 3 months, but not block it. On the basis of the draft new Rules of Mass Media Monitoring, in respect of foreign owners of Internet resources no administrative cases will be initiated. The Communication Committee will be entitled to file a claim for suspension of access to an Internet resource or blocking an Internet resource.
II. New Rules of Mass Media Monitoring
The Communication Committee is currently working on a draft of new Rules of Mass Media Monitoring on compliance with the RK legislation.
The Rules contain a complete list of rules, for compliance with which various types of mass media will be monitored. The procedures for monitoring of Internet resources are also partially described.
The amendments to the Mass Media Law imply that checking of the need for registration of a website should be done not only by media companies that produce an electronic version of a newspaper, a magazine, have a web site of the channel, but also any entrepreneur who uses websites to inform its customers about its products and services.