07ASTANA1145, KAZAKHSTAN – ASTANA MEDIA NOTES FOR APRIL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA1145 2007-05-02 00:31 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO2722
RR RUEHAST
DE RUEHTA #1145/01 1220031
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020031Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9297
INFO RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1726
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2201

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001145 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR INR/R/MR, SCA/CEN (MO'MARA), SCA/PPD (JKAMP), DRL/PHD 
(CKUCHTA-HELBLING) 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KPAO KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN - ASTANA MEDIA NOTES FOR APRIL 
 
Ref:  A) Astana 918, B) 06 Astana 2074 
 
1. (U) Summary: The Mazhilis has accepted for consideration a draft 
law on mass media.  The draft was developed by the Congress of 
Journalists, chaired by presidential daughter and Mazhilis 
representative Dariga Nazarbayeva, in collaboration with media 
advocacy NGOs, the National Association of Broadcasters, and the 
Union of Journalists.  Minister of Information Yermukhamet 
Yertysbayev said that the ministry is recalling its draft law on 
licensing print houses and that it is ready to liberalize media 
legislation.  Nazarbayeva asked the Supreme Court to transfer the 
appeal for Galina Vybornova, accused of slander, to the city court 
of Almaty.  She also sent an inquiry to the Procurator General's 
office regarding tax evasion charges pending against Irina 
Petrushova, currently living in exile in Moscow, and the defacto 
editor-in-chief of the opposition weekly Respublika.  The newspaper 
Vremya filed a slander suit against Yertysbayev, but the suit has 
been suspended until the paper provides an address and tax 
identification number for the minister.  End summary. 
 
Nazarbayeva Submits Draft Media Law to Parliament 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
2. (U) Pro-government newswire Kazakhstan Today reported April 4 
that the Congress of Journalists had completed a draft law 
liberalizing restrictions on media.  The draft law would ease 
restrictions on media registration, decriminalize libel, tighten 
regulations on media monopolization, and regulate auctions of TV and 
radio frequencies.  The draft retains provisions that protect the 
president from insult. 
 
3. (U) The draft has been in development for several years (Ref B) 
with input from media advocacy NGOs, the Congress of Journalists led 
by Dariga Nazarbayeva, the National Association of Broadcasters, and 
the Union of Journalists. According to an April 18 Interfax wire 
report, Mazhilis deputies Nazarbayeva, Sergey Kiselev, Dariya 
Klebanova, and others sponsored the bill and the Mazhilis bureau 
consisting of the speaker, vice speaker, committee heads, and the 
head of the Nur Otan political faction accepted it for 
consideration. 
 
Ambiguous Signals of Easing Restrictions on Media 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
4. (U) In addition to the relatively liberal draft media law, 
Information Minister Yermukhamet Yertysbayev announced April 17 on 
official Khabar TV's live "Betpe Bet" program that an interagency 
commission had decided to recall the draft law on licensing print 
houses because the measure had been so unpopular. The minister also 
noted that the controversial law would be put aside "for the time 
being" while Kazakhstan pursues democratic reforms and the 
chairmanship of the OSCE.  He said the draft would have to be 
re-considered later because a high quality print industry was a 
condition for WTO accession. 
 
5. (U) Several media reported on remarks Yertysbayev made on April 
21 at the 6th Eurasia Media Forum where he expressed readiness to 
liberalize the media legislation. "We are ready to introduce a 
moratorium on distorting the truth, to release journalists from 
criminal prosecution, and to implement a series of steps to 
liberalize the legislation," the minister said.  He also called for 
the creation of a national journalist organization to establish an 
ongoing dialogue between journalists and the information ministry. 
Such an organization, he said, should draft and enforce a code of 
reporting ethics among journalists so that media could maintain 
professional standards of integrity.  The organization would also 
arbitrate disagreements that arose between the ministry and the 
journalist community. 
 
6. (U) Some local media advocates doubted the need for yet another 
advocacy group and also doubted whether Yertysbayev really had the 
interests of journalists at heart.  Askar Shomshekov, director of 
the Pavlodar Center for Regional Journalism Support, commented in an 
April 27 article on The Institute for War and Peace Reporting 
website, that any new organization should act only as an 
intermediary to make it easier for the journalist community to have 
a say in the lawmaking process.  Tamara Kaleyeva, head of the Adil 
Soz (Free Speech) NGO, said in the same article that Yertysbayev 
only wants to "strengthen the voice of the authorities."  Rozlana 
Taukina, head of the media defense group Zhurnalisty v Bedi 
(Journalists in Trouble), said the proposal was a sign that 
pro-government groups were struggling among themselves for control 
of the media.  (As noted in Ref A, the Congress of Journalists 
headed by Nazarbayeva and the Union of Journalists led by her close 
ally Seitkazy Matayev have called for Yertysbayev's resignation). 
 
Liberalization Motivated by OSCE Aspirations? 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
ASTANA 00001145  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
7. (U)
Tamara Kaleyeva also commented in an April 20 Eurasianet 
interview on the new draft media law and steps taken by the 
information minister to ease restrictions on the media.  She said 
the draft law indicated that Kazakhstan is now on the threshold of 
"real, practical steps" necessary for Kazakhstan's OSCE 
chairmanship.  She characterized the legislation as "not ideal, but 
realistic" and said that retaining the defamation provisions 
regarding the president and other top officials was "a concession" 
NGO activists had to make to include other liberalizing provisions. 
 
Nazarbayeva Champions Embattled Journalists 
------------------------------------------- 
 
8. (U) Pro-government newswire Kazakhstan Today reported that on 
April 4 that during a plenary session Mazhilis Deputy Nazarbayeva 
presented a parliamentary inquiry to Supreme Court Chairman Kairat 
Mami, asking that the appeal of journalist Galina Vybornova be 
transferred from the Zhambyl oblast court to the Almaty city court. 
The judge for the Zhambyl oblast had filed a libel suit against 
Vybornova for her articles in pro-government Ekspress K alleging 
ties between him and a criminal group.  The district court of the 
city of Taraz found Vybornova guilty of libel and fined her the 
equivalent of about $1790.  Nazarbayeva noted the libel suit is a 
civil case filed by an individual and as such cannot be re-examined 
by the Supreme Court. 
 
9. (U) Nazarbayeva presented another inquiry to the Procurator 
General's office regarding Irina Petrushova, editor-in-chief of the 
opposition weekly Respublika newspaper.  Nazarbayeva asked for an 
official response explaining the case against Irina Petrushova and 
whether Petrushova were free to come back to Kazakhstan to 
participate in journalistic and other public events.  As director 
general of Respublika's owner, the PR Consulting Company, Petrushova 
was charged with evading 1,695,000 tenge ($12,100) in taxes for the 
years 1999-2000.  She was also charged with failing to comply with a 
ruling of the specialized inter-district economic court in Almaty in 
March 2002.  Nazarbayeva noted that the tax audit in February 2002 
showed that PR Consulting had underpaid some taxes and overpaid 
others, and thus owed nothing. 
 
Vremya Lawsuit Against Information Minister Suspended 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
10. (U) The progressive Vremya reported on April 21 that it had 
filed suit against Yertysbayev in Astana's Saryarkinskiy district 
court for criticizing the professional skills of its journalists in 
a March 9 interview with Respublika and a subsequent appearance on 
Channel 31.  Vremya asked the court to order Yertysbayev to issue a 
public apology to Vremya's journalists and editor-in-chief on 
Channel 31 and in the Respublika and Vremya newspapers.  The civil 
lawsuit was accepted by the court and passed to the judge for 
review.  On April 28, Vremya reported that the court had suspended 
its suit because the paper failed to indicate the address of 
Yertysbayev's apartment and his tax identification number.  The 
court has given Vremya 16 days to provide this information. 
 
ORDWAY

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