Freedom of Expression is the Constitutional Right of Every Citizen, Says Tokayev

NUR-SULTAN – Freedom of expression is a constitutional right of every citizen, said Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at a virtual meeting with the country’s Prosecutor General office, reported the Akorda press service. 

During the meeting. Photo credit: Akorda press service

“Since last year, Kazakhstan has had a fundamentally new law on peaceful assemblies, which introduced a notification system to organise rallies instead of the permissions that were required previously. Peaceful assemblies, including protests, can now be held in central parts of major cities,” Tokayev told the meeting. 

According to him, this was a “very serious step towards the democratisation of the society.”

“We should explain this policy not only within our society, but also abroad. Those willing to protest should abide by the new law. No one is depriving citizens of their freedom of expression and voicing criticism towards the government. This is a constitutional right and it should be fulfilled in accordance with the law,” he said. 

The initiative was first voiced by Tokayev in his first state-of-the-nation address in September 2019. The law was signed by Tokayev in May 2020. 

Tokayev said the Prosecutor’s office has a crucial role in ensuring rule of law and fighting crime. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the crime rate went down by 30 percent. 

Reforms must continue increasing the trust of the population in the system. 

“A three-tier model of criminal procedure is currently being implemented. As a result, 692 people have been released from prosecution in one month. This should continue. All major procedural decisions must pass through the prosecutor. This is a very important issue. Not a single violation of the law should go unnoticed by the prosecutor,” said Tokayev.

During the meeting, Tokayev also gave several instructions. 

First, he reiterated the importance of protecting the rights of business people. Over the past ten years, he said, the efforts enabled a threefold reduction in the number of inspections.

A moratorium on the inspection of small businesses came into effect in January 2020 and it helped decrease the number of inspections five fold in 2020 alone. The moratorium is expected to last through Jan. 1, 2023.  

Tokayev told the gathering to monitor illegal inspections that are still taking place. The mobile team working to protect businesses received over 500 such complaints over the past three months. 

“It is often the case that given the slightest reason, the authorities start inspection without objectivity and with bias.  Documents are confiscated and businesses cannot get them back for months. Instead of working, the whole staff is interrogated. This is unacceptable. Prosecutors have to ensure strict compliance with the law in relations between businesses and all law enforcement agencies without exception,” said Tokayev. 

Any illegal interference of the state apparatus in business will be considered as a grave crime and will soon be defined legally. 

Existing norms that prove to be inefficient and unreasonable acts should be revealed and the unified platform where citizens can file complaints may help in this. 

Law enforcement agencies should be prepared for a potential rise in crime rates. 

“The negative economic and social effects stemming from the pandemic may provoke an increase in crime and delinquency. Law enforcement agencies must be prepared for this and any attempts of criminals to take advantage of the difficult situation in the country must be immediately addressed,” he said. 

He also spoke about the optimisation of the country’s Criminal Code, where the work should involve both law enforcement agencies, state bodies and the public, including civil activists and experts. 

Law enforcement agencies should work closely with all other government bodies, said Tokayev. 

“For example, many of our citizens fall victim to pyramid schemes. There are more than 17,000 victims in one criminal case alone. To organize such criminal schemes, criminals repeatedly carry out the same type of transactions and only then disappear. But detecting such suspicious activity in time could save many people from taking rash steps and ensure that the criminals are punished,” he said.

All factors that could spur social conflicts, including delays in salaries, illegal job cuts, should be detected in time and prevented. 

“Thanks to your efforts, 29,000 workers received their salary debts amounting to 2.7 billion tenge (US$6.4 million). This work should be continued, given that tension persists at some enterprises,” he added. 

Get The Astana Times stories sent directly to you! Sign up via the website or subscribe to our Twitter and Telegram!