ASTANA Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov Monday told his ministers to start personal blogs to get them closer to the people of the former Soviet state.
"I have opened a blog on the government website," Masimov told a government meeting. "So I order all ministers... to start personal blogs where people will be able to ask you questions that you must answer."
Masimov started his own blog last week with an introductory post that has already received 152 comments, some of which were complaints about the quality of tap water in villages. He has since ordered the cabinet to investigate the criticisms.
About 14 percent of the steppe nation's 16 million people have Internet access, according to official data. Many users complain of growing censorship and domestic media rarely question state policies.
Kazakhstan, which has been singled out by Western rights activists for its lack of press freedom, has vowed to step up the pace of liberal reforms before it takes over the chairmanship in 2010 of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Europe's top democracy watchdog.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a former communist party boss, has ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist since 1989. He has never been elected in a vote judged free and fair by OSCE monitors.
(Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Nick Vinocur)