07ASTANA918, UPDATE ON KAZAKHSTANI JOURNALISTS CONFLICT WITH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA918 2007-04-11 00:36 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO0589
RR RUEHAST
DE RUEHTA #0918/01 1010036
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 110036Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9046
INFO RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1713
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2194

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000918 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR INR/R/MR, SCA/CEN (MO'MARA), SCA/PPD (JKAMP), DRL/PHD 
(CKUCHTA-HELBLING) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KPAO KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  UPDATE ON KAZAKHSTANI JOURNALISTS CONFLICT WITH 
INFORMATION MINISTER 
 
Ref:  A) Astana 652, B) 06 Almaty 1750 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  The rapid escalation of the conflict between Era 
TV and Information Minister Yermukhamet Yertysbayev in early March 
was just as rapidly defused by mid-month.  Yertysbayev apologized 
March 14 "to all" whom he "might have offended" during a live 
television program.  After Yertysbayev met with an Era TV journalist 
March 16, Era rescinded its legal actions against the ministry, and 
the ministry in turn dropped its suit against Era for violating the 
law requiring 50/50 Russian/Kazakh-language programming.  The 
newspaper Vremya has also put on hold its plans to sue the minister. 
 End summary. 
 
Prime Minister Asks Information Minister to Apologize 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
2. (U) The rapid escalation of the conflict between Era TV and 
Information Minister Yermukhamet Yertysbayev in early March was just 
as rapidly defused two weeks later.  On March 14, during a live 
call-in program about Kazakhstan's property legalization campaign 
broadcast nationwide by official Kazakhstan-1, Chairman of 
Kazakhstan's Union of Journalists Seitkazy Matayev phoned in, asking 
Kazakhstan's prime minister to explain his position on Yertysbayev's 
"tactless behavior toward journalists" that had "discredited state 
authority in the entire country."  Prime Minister Masimov responded, 
"Yermukhamet Kabidinovich is my cabinet colleague.  I should 
naturally be on his side, but it is also difficult for me to legally 
assess this issue.  As a human being, from an ethical point of view, 
I would recommend that you, Yereke [polite and informal for 
Yermukhamet], as a man, apologize to that particular journalist." 
(Per Ref A, Yertysbayev was shown on Channel 31 television news 
excluding Era TV journalist Yulia Isakova from a pull-aside 
interview following a government meeting on March 2.)  Yertysbayev 
responded, "If I offended someone inadvertently as claimed, I am 
always ready to apologize, and I apologize to all whom I offended." 
 
Era Makes Separate Peace, Cancels Lawsuits 
------------------------------------------ 
 
3. (SBU) On March 16, Yertysbayev had a private meeting at his 
office with Era TV reporter Isakova.  On the station's evening news, 
Mirbulat Kunbayev, Era's general director, announced that "the 
conflict between the minister of culture and information and an Era 
TV journalist is over" and that Isakova was "satisfied with the 
results of the meeting."  He said Era TV was therefore recalling its 
"previously filed lawsuits."  (Per Ref A, the station had initiated 
legal action to annul the January frequency tender and had filed 
suit against the ministry for inhibiting the lawful activity of 
their correspondent.)  An embassy source in the media community told 
emboff April 9 that presidential advisor Ardak Doszhan, former 
Deputy Minister of Information, holds shares in Era TV, and that may 
have eased the way for settling the dispute.  Three days later, the 
ministry dropped its suit against Era TV for the alleged violation 
of the "50/50" law requiring equal Russian and Kazakh-language 
programming.  As a condition of the settlement, Era TV was required 
to provide a concept of Kazakh language program development to be 
approved by the ministry's committee on information and archives. 
 
Vremya "Blinks" 
--------------- 
 
4. (SBU) Regarding the lawsuit the progressive daily newspaper 
Vremya had intended to file against the information minister to 
"defend the business reputation of the paper" (Ref A), deputy editor 
Marat Asipov told emboff April 9 that the paper had planned to file 
suit, but had not yet taken any specific actions.  Asipov said the 
decision on whether to follow through with a lawsuit would be made 
by editor-in-chief Igor Meltser. 
 
Frequency Tender Still Disputed 
------------------------------- 
 
5. (U) Before the resolution of Era's dispute, Mazhilis Deputy Serik 
Abdrakhmanov said in an interview with Era on March 12 that he was 
"pressured" as a member of the frequency commission and received 10 
phone calls advising him which television companies should receive 
the frequencies.  He said when he tried to question why one channel 
was favored over another, he was told only that "it should be this 
way," without specifying who exactly was giving him instructions. 
He said he quit the commission after the first session. 
 
6. (U) Several media, including opposition weekly Republika on March 
16, reported another question posed by Seitkazy Matayev to Prime 
Minister Massimov during the call-in program March 14: Matayev asked 
how the head of the Pavlodar channel Irbis could have been awarded 
 
ASTANA 00000918  002 OF 002 
 
 
frequencies in the tender if he had been denied Kazakhstani 
citizenship.  Matayev reportedly said that the national security law 
prohibited non-citizens from owning med
ia, and he asked the prime 
minister whether the tender should therefore be annulled.  In a 
conversation with emboff April 9, Matayev said he had also provided 
a written query to the prime minister, but had so far not received a 
response. 
 
Comment From Kazakhstani Media Representatives 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
7.  (SBU) An article in the March 23 issue of the pro-government 
weekly Altyn Orda offered opinions of several media analysts that 
Minister Yertysbayev is defending the interests of "Eurasia Group" 
chairman and billionaire Aleksandr Mashkevich, allegedly the owner 
of Ria Arna TV, which received seven frequencies in the January 
tender.  (Altyn Orda is rumored to be affiliated with Minister of 
Economy and Budget Planning Aslan Musin.)  Kasym Amanzholov, a 
former correspondent of Kazakhstan 1, who quit after Yertysbayev's 
reorganization of the channel last May (Ref B), thinks that 
dismissing Yertysbayev would not bring about any real change in 
media and society, but would be a democratic gesture, showing the 
authorities conceding to popular demand.  Bigeldin Gabdullin, 
editor-in-chief of the pro-government Central Asia Monitor, was 
quoted in the article saying journalists in conflict with 
Yertysbayev are not representative of the journalist community 
because the minister still has many supporters. 
 
ORDWAY

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