07ASTANA2192, KAZAKHSTANI MEDIA DEVELOPMENTS MAY-JULY 2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA2192 2007-08-12 23:56 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO8260
RR RUEHAST
DE RUEHTA #2192/01 2242356
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 122356Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0347
INFO RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1803
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2228

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 002192 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR INR/R/MR, SCA/CEN (MO'MARA), SCA/PPD (LHICKOCK), DRL/PHD 
(CKUCHTA-HELBLING) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KPAO KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTANI MEDIA DEVELOPMENTS MAY-JULY 2007 
 
Ref:  Astana 918 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary of media developments: 
--As reported in local media, Bulat Utermuratov, head of management 
affairs in Kazakhstan's presidential administration, and Armanzhan 
Baitasov, Channel 31 president, each plan to sell 25 percent of 
Channel 31, Kazakhstan's most objective television station, to the 
commercial entertainment network Russian STS.  Two of the station's 
popular news analysis programs were discontinued just before the 
advent of campaigning for the August 18 Kazakhstani parliamentary 
elections, and the station will not broadcast analytical news 
programs again until September. 
--On June 19, the progressive Vremya newspaper sued Minister of 
Information and Culture Yermukhament Yertysbayev for his derogatory 
comments about Vremya journalists (see reftel).  The court threw out 
the lawsuit (which Vremya is appealing) but partially granted a 
countersuit filed by the minister for moral damages he attributed to 
a Vremya article criticizing him. 
--On May 24, KTK TV's broadcasts and Karavan weekly newspaper were 
suspended for alleged violations of a media law and release of 
sensitive information regarding a criminal case thought to have 
involved the media's owner, Rakhat Aliyev.  Broadcasting resumed on 
June 4.  On June 6, former presidential administration official 
Arman Shurayev confirmed his appointment as the new head of the KTK 
TV Company. 
 
Russian Company Buys Channel 31 
------------------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) On July 19, the opposition newspaper Vzglyad reported 
rumors that Bulat Utermuratov, head of management affairs in 
Kazakhstan's presidential administrations, owned a large share of 
the media company that owns centrist television state Channel 31 and 
planned to sell at least part of his holdings to Russian STS, a huge 
commercial entertainment network.  Utermuratov and Channel 31 
President Armanzhan Baitasov, according to sources at Channel 31, 
will each sell 25 percent of the company to Russian STS.  Sources 
stated that it was unclear whether the company's other media 
outlets, including the newspaper Megapolys, would be affected by the 
sale. 
 
3.  (SBU) Vzglyad reported that the sale might be connected to the 
discontinuation of popular news analysis programs "Tochki nad I" 
(Dotting the "I") and "Tsentr Vnimaniya" (Center of Attention), 
which were removed from Channel 31's program schedule just before 
the advent of campaigning for the August 18 parliamentary elections. 
 However, Channel 31 sources have indicated that the sale of Channel 
31, the most objective of Kazakhstani broadcasters, appears to be 
purely a business transaction, not a politically motivated event. 
 
4.  (SBU) Sources at Channel 31 said that the sale was official, and 
that final negotations would take place in September. The objective 
and news-oriented station will become more focused on entertainment, 
said Channel 31 sources, reflecting the format of the Russian 
channel that will own 50 percent of the station.  Although "Tochki 
nad I" and "Tsentr Vnimaniya" will not be put back on the air, 
sources noted, producers are currently developing a new format and 
content for news and analysis programs and plan to begin 
broadcasting in September. 
 
Newspaper Vremya Takes Minister to Court 
----------------------------------------- 
 
5.  (U) The progressive newspaper Vremya on July 24 appealed an 
Astana district court ruling that threw out its lawsuit against the 
minister of information and culture.  Vremya, Kazakhstan's most 
popular nationwide newspaper, filed its lawsuit on June 19, alleging 
defamation as a result of the minister's remarks characterizing the 
paper's reporters as "scoundrels, frauds, and telekillers" and 
demanded a public apology.  Minister Yertysbayev threatened to file 
a countersuit unless Vremya dropped its case and agreed to reach a 
settlement, which enraged Vremya, leading it to increase its demands 
for damages to 2 million tenge ($16,528).  The court threw out 
Vremya's lawsuit, ruling Minister Yertysbayev's statement as "an 
expression of his subjective and ethical opinion" and not damaging 
to the reporters' reputations. 
 
Minister Files Defamation Countersuit 
------------------------------------- 
 
6.  (U) Minister Yertysbayev filed his countersuit on June 26, 
demanding 5 million tenge ($41,322) for moral damages he attributed 
to a Vremya article criticizing him for not paying enough attention 
to culture, specifically, the budgetary problems of the Almaty 
Ballet School.  The court ordered Vremya and its editor-in-chief to 
each pay the minister 5,000 tenge ($41).  Commenting on his court 
 
ASTANA 00002192  002 OF 002 
 
 
victory, Yertysbayev stated in Liter newspaper that it does not 
really matter who won, as the more important thing is the court 
sentencing the newspaper to pay only 10,000 tenge because this 
precedent can now be
 used to stop multimillion tenge claims against 
Kazakhstani mass media (like the one Mr. Yertysbayev filed). 
 
Fate of Rakhat Aliyev's KTK TV and Karavan Newspaper 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
7.  (U) On May 24, the day after police ordered the investigation of 
President Nazarbayev's son-in-law and Ambassador to Austria Rakhat 
Aliyev for the January 2007 kidnapping of two executives of Nurbank, 
a bank owned by Aliyev, an Almaty court suspended the weekly tabloid 
Karavan and television channel KTK, also owned by Aliyev. 
 
8.  (U) Although the court did not explicitly state its reasons for 
suspending the media, among the most popular in Kazakhstan, 
Interfax-Kazakhstan reported that on May 22, the Almaty prosecutor's 
office warned KTK not to violate a media law requiring equal air 
time for Russian and Kazakh language programming and particularly 
not to "report details of the investigation into Nurbank-related 
criminal cases without the investigator's explicit permission." 
Earlier in May, Karavan had published a series of articles 
criticizing Interior Affairs Minister Baurzhan Mukhamedzhanov and 
Almaty Mayor Imangali Tasmagambetov for "kidnapping" KTK employees 
who were taken in for questioning regarding the actual kidnapping of 
the Nurbank executives.  The newspaper also accused the officials of 
"politicizing" the Nurbank investigation, whereas the interior 
ministry claimed the men taken in for questioning were former or 
current employees of the special services and not listed in KTK 
personnel records. 
 
9.  (U) The Kazakhstan Today news agency, also owned by Aliyev, 
reported on May 24 that the court did impose sanctions on KTK and 
Karavan for allegedly violating the language law. 
 
10.  (U) KTK TV resumed broadcasting on June 4.  In a highly 
publicized nationwide web chat on June 5, President Nazarbayev 
remarked that the suspension of KTK and Karavan was "exclusively 
related to the legal sphere" and that they "made up for the legal 
violations they committed."  On June 6, the interior ministry stated 
that Aliyev "was released on a one-million Euro bail shortly after 
being detained by Austrian police." 
 
11.  (U) Also on June 6, former presidential administration official 
Arman Shurayev confirmed his appointment as the new head of the KTK 
TV company.  Shurayev, who is widely respected by media 
professionals regardless of their political affiliation, previously 
worked as the chief inspector of the social and political department 
in Kazakhstan's presidential administration.  He also led the press 
office of President Nazarbayev's campaign during the 2005 
presidential election. 
 
ORDWAY

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