Watchdog Slams Kazakhstan Over Borat Ban
Thursday, December 15, 2005
ALMATY, Kazakhstan — An international media watchdog has criticized the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan for stopping a British comedian who poses as a bigoted Kazakh journalist from using the Kazakh Internet domain name.
The ex-Soviet country nation has long fumed against the antics of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays a vulgar journalist named Borat Sagdiyev on British and American television.
Kazakhstan’s government has now blocked Cohen from using a Web site with the “.kz” domain name — a move the Reporters Without Borders group called censorship. In a statement released Wednesday, the Paris-based group expressed concern about “the politicization of the administration of domain names.”
Kazakhstan’s government has taken great exception to the character Sagdiyev, who, among other things, makes outrageous statements such as saying that Kazakhs make wine out of fermented horse urine, shoot dogs for fun, and consider incest and rape as popular hobbies.
Cohen’s show is virtually unknown to most Kazakhs.
Kazakhstan’s embassies in Washington and elsewhere have lodged protests through media interviews and letters. But Cohen’s appearance as Borat Sagdiyev last month on the MTV Europe Music Awards — during which he made fun of President Nursultan Nazarbayev — prompted the Foreign Ministry to threaten legal action.
“We do not rule out that Mr. Cohen is serving someone’s political order designed to present Kazakhstan and its people in a derogatory way,” Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev said.
In a statement posted on the now-blocked Web site, Cohen, who is Jewish, said: “I like to state, I have no connection with Mr. Cohen and fully support my government’s position to sue this Jew.”
“Since the 2003 … reforms Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world,” he said in his video address using the blue Kazakh national flag as a backdrop. “Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hat and age of consent has been raised to eight years old.”
I watched the video whilst it was available; and although funny it was very near the knuckle and perhaps a bit much for the current world climate – I expect it would offend a lot more people than just the Kazakhs
the video has been made in the style of the Al-Jazeera videos they show from militant Islamic organisations
Borat is in front of the Kazakhstan national flag, around it are various weapons including swords and antique firearms. He is holding up a microphone in the same style as Osama Bin Laden. (see attached!)
I’m sure if a comedian made a similar video with the Union Flag, dressed up as a squaddie and made jokes about abusing prisoners or bigging up the NF or BNP they would end up with their website being closed down… actually why doesn’t anyone makejokes like this? perhaps because the British authorities have more money to deal with stuff like this.
He is not just picking on Kazakhstan and appears to be mocking regressive social attitudes in Central Asia as a whole; but can Mr Cohen himself claim to be particularly right-on?
there’s still the unanswered questions of why he got Sara Cox in a load of trouble by swearing on her show in peak time, something I believe he has never apologised for either. She may be loudmouthed but has AFAIK never been involved in human rights abuses!
If he is professional enough to remain in character throughout his work (a very difficult thing to do) he should be professional enough to comply with accepted broadcasting standards when he is a guest on someone elses show!
If he wanted to push the envelope on his own work (as he clearly does) fair enough, but what gives him the right to endanger someone elses career? I wonder if Cohen actually has a problem with women with decent careers…
sometimes comedians use their work as a form of therapy and to get away with expressing their own negative personality aspects, claiming “its all a joke” ….
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