International Republican Institute (IRI) partner, the Kaznet Freedom Civic Initiative in Kazakhstan, announced member Ulan Shamshet as one of five winners of a video contest sponsored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).  The contest highlighted civil society in action as a part of OSCE’s efforts to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain.

The group’s winning video provides background on a law passed this year in Kazakhstan tightening government control of the Internet, and highlights those citizens organizing to protect Internet freedom.  It demonstrates that a Google search for “freedom of speech in Kazakhstan” redirects the search engine to the Committee of National Security and Police Office website.  The video also shows footage of some of the peaceful protests being held to raise awareness of the legislation, including a nationwide effort called Free Sailing to Free Internet, which entails the coordinated launching of paper boats in bodies of water.

E-activism and Internet communication have been a focus of IRI’s programming in Kazakhstan during the past year.  Shamshet acknowledged IRI for providing him and his organization with the tools to disseminate their message and to participate in the competition:

“In November 2008, I attended an IRI training for political parties on how to use new technologies.  The main goal of the training was to demonstrate methods of delivering information to the public using alternative means of communication.  This training was a learning experience for me and I was introduced to the Windows Movie Maker program for the first time.  Using this program, the Kaznet Freedom Movement began making videos on political topics.  During this year we gained experience not only in making and editing videos, but also worked on the mechanisms of converting these videos into a format that enables mobile transmission through Bluetooth.  We began promoting our videos through mobile phone messages and social networking sites, so that they could easily be shared.

“When we learned that the OSCE was conducting a competition, we gathered all the materials we had after a year of working for the Kaznet Freedom Movement and made one comprehensive video with it.  In many ways it was a report of the work we had been able to do because of IRI’s training.”

Kaznet Freedom was founded by a group of activists who stand for the fundamental civil right of freedom of opinion and expression.  The movement unites Internet users, bloggers, journalists and prominent public figures.  Members of the movement protest the introduction of amendments to Kazakhstani legislation restricting Internet freedom without nationwide public discussion.

The winners of the contest, which was financed by the Permanent Mission of Germany to the OSCE with the support of the Greek OSCE chairmanship, received a trip to Vienna to the OSCE.

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