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."