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Wikimedia Foundation works with Kazakh government-linked foundation on their own version of the site

 

The regime was this month accused of 'growing crackdown on free speech' by Human Rights Watch

 

Mr Wales also questioned about links with Blair, who attended his wedding and with whom he has holidayed

 

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has censored critics from his page on the website after they questioned his friendship with Tony Blair and work with the authoritarian Kazakh regime.


Mr Wales shut down a discussion about the links on his Talk Page and said criticism of his relationship with the former PM and his work with Kazakhstan had become 'absurd'.


The Wikimedia Foundation - the non-profit group that runs Wikipedia - last year set up a foundation with Kazakhstan's government to create material for a Kazakh version of the site.


But Wikipedia contributors in the West have questioned whether Mr Wales and the foundation should support a project backed by a government accused of mounting a 'growing crackdown on free speech' by Human Rights Watch.


Mr Wales also came under fire from one contributor for his friendship with former PM Mr Blair, who was a guest at his wedding in October and with whom he has holidayed on Richard Branson's private Caribbean island.


Mr Blair is an advisor to the Kazakh regime, which has been ruled ruled by autocrat Nursultan Nazarbayev since before the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union over two decades ago.


In April last year, President Nazarbayev was re-elected to another five-year term receiving 95.54 per cent of the vote with 89.9 per cent of registered voters participating.


The Wikimedia Foundation has been collaborating with Kazakhstan's government in the running of WikiBilim, a Kazakh version of Wikipedia run by Rauan Kenzhekhanuly, a former government official.

 

It provided a $16,600 grant from Wikipedia visitor donations to the organisation - also backed by Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund - and Mr Wales last year named Mr Kenzhekhanuly the first 'Wikipedian of the Year'.

 

Nevertheless, Mr Wales last week denied his work in Kazakhstan or that of the Wikimedia Foundation supported the Nazarbayev regime.


'My position on working with companies and organization in difficult jurisdictions is, I think, thoughtful and nuanced,' he said as he announced the shut down of the discussion over the links on his Talk Page.


'In Kazakhstan, there is a great group of volunteer editors - just like you - who are working in a non-political way with their own government to transition an older encyclopedia into Wikipedia, as well as to recruit quality volunteers,' he added.


'Like many people, I have concerns about potential problems, but so far I have been pleased with what I have seen.'


He added in a separate discussion on Quora that 'no one has produced any evidence of any kind of manipulation of Kazakh Wikipedia', the Telegraph reported.

 

Mr Wales also hit back at critics who raised questions over his friendship with Mr Blair, whose contract for advising the Nazarbayev regime is worth a reported $13million.


'I have nothing to do with his consulting in Kazakhstan, and I have many political (and religious) disagreements with him, which I'm quite open about,' Mr Wales said.


'I have lots of friends, many from difficult countries, many who are politicians, and I don't necessarily agree with everything they say (nor do they agree with me).


'But frankly, my personal life has absolutely nothing to do with Kazakhstan.'


Mr Wales's links to the controversial former prime minister was raised by prolific UK-based Wikipedia contributor Andreas Kolbe.


Mr Wales told him to 'stay off' his talk page, adding: 'I've had enough of you. I'll delete anything you post there, and if you persist, I'll ask others to help delete anything you post there.'

 

DailyMail

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