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Borat can report freely in Kazakhstan —

Borat's homeland of Kazakhstan gets no high-five when it comes to censorship, the State Department says. The fictional Kazakh TV reporter played by Sacha Baron Cohen has made an unexpected cameo as a victim in a heavyweight annual human rights report.
/ Source: Reuters

Borat's homeland of Kazakhstan gets no high-five when it comes to censorship, the State Department says.

The fictional Kazakh TV reporter played by Sacha Baron Cohen makes an unexpected cameo as a victim in a heavyweight annual human rights report.

The 2006 report, released Tuesday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, criticized the real Kazakhstan, a vast oil-producing Central Asian state, for increased restrictions on freedom of speech and other abuses, including torture by police and arbitrary arrest.

The report cited Borat’s loss of his Kazakh Web page www.borat.kz in late 2005 alongside court cases and limits on free speech faced by the few domestic media critical of Kazakhstan’s long-serving president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

“The government deemed as offensive the content of a satirical site controlled by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and revoked the .kz domain,” the report said.

Baron Cohen, who subsequently moved the site to www.borat.tv, has been something of a thorn in the side of Kazakhstan’s government, which initially reacted angrily to his portrayal of the country as home to misogynists and racists.

Shortly before the Web site closure, a Kazakh Foreign Ministry official threatened “legal measures” against him. Cohen, who is Jewish, responded in character as Borat saying:

“I ... fully support my government’s position to sue this Jew.”

There was no lawsuit and officials adopted a more measured stance on Borat, whose movie grossed $248 million last year, with Nazarbayev later saying that he got the joke during a news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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The State Department, which says Kazakhstan has no independent judiciary, also listed the murder last year of Kazakh opposition politician Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly, his bodyguard and driver as “unlawful deprivation of life.” It criticized a Kazakh court for failing “to follow up and investigate signs that other parties and high-level government officials may have been involved in instigating the killings.”

The report also listed military hazing, torture by police, unhealthy prison conditions, arbitrary arrests, restrictions on freedom of assembly, domestic violence against women, people trafficking and “severe limits on citizens’ rights to change their government” as areas of concern.