New bill approved by Kazakh government - “setback for press freedom,” advocates say

Lawmakers unanimously voted for the bill sponsored by the Information Ministry. Journalists' organizations have dismissed it as repressive.

Under the bill, an editor whose media organization was closed down will be banned from working as an editor for three years. The measure also requires news outlets to notify authorities every time they change editor or address.

It also obliges media organizations to maintain a fund for paying damages in case of defamation lawsuits.

The government says the proposed changes are aimed at reducing the number of news outlets, according to the AP.

To become law the bill must be signed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has 15 days to decide. Nazarbayev, who has resisted democratic reforms in this oil-rich Central Asian during his 17-year rule, is expected to back the bill.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, has urged the government to withdraw the legislation.

Kazakhstan is bidding to chair the OSCE in 2009. A decision on the bid is expected to be made by the group's member countries in December.

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