07ASTANA2807, KAZAKHSTAN: GOVERNMENT ADVANCES QUESTIONABLE MEDIA REFORM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA2807 2007-10-12 12:35 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO8062
RR RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHPW RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2807/01 2851235
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121235Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0896
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0270
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1832
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 002807 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM PREL KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: GOVERNMENT ADVANCES QUESTIONABLE MEDIA REFORM 
LEGISLATION 
 
ASTANA 00002807  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (U) Summary: On October 1, Adil Soz and several other media 
watchdog groups circulated copies of draft amendments to 
Kazakhstan's law concerning defamation in the media, as well as an 
open letter to Parliament criticizing the draft.  Among other 
things, the proposed legislation removes imprisonment as a possible 
punishment for defamation, but leaves other penalties in place, and 
adds liability for dissemination of true information regarding the 
private life of a citizen that derogates his honor and dignity. 
According to Adil Soz, the amendments were drafted by the Ministry 
of Interior rather than the Ministry of Culture and Information, and 
are currently awaiting approval by the cabinet and prime minister 
before they are forwarded to Parliament. End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
GOVERNMENT ADVANCES AMENDMENTS TO DEFAMATION LAW 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
2. (U) On October 1, the media watchdog group Adil Soz, the Union of 
Journalists, the Congress of Journalists, and several other 
media-related NGOs publicly criticized new draft amendments to 
Kazakhstan's media law and circulated copies of the proposed 
legislation. According to the NGOs, the amendments were drafted by 
the Ministry of Interior, as opposed to the Ministry of Culture and 
Information, which normally has responsibility for such legislation 
and has purportedly been working on the issue over the past several 
months. 
 
3. (U) According to the text circulated by the NGOs, the proposed 
legislation: 
 
-- removes imprisonment as a possible punishment for insulting the 
dignity and honor of the president, leaving fines or "social or 
correctional works" as the maximum punishment for a violation; 
 
-- removes separate, harsher penalties for defamation through the 
mass media in most cases, though journalists could still be 
prosecuted under the basic defamation provisions; 
 
-- retains liability for defamation through the mass media for cases 
involving the president; 
 
-- retains liability for libel against judges, jurors, prosecutors, 
and investigators, though possible prison terms for such violations 
are reduced; 
 
-- adds liability for dissemination of true information regarding 
the private life of a citizen that derogates his honor and dignity. 
 
4. (U) The text of the draft legislation was accompanied by an 
unsigned Note of Explanation from Prime Minister Karim Massimov. 
(Note: Notes of Explanation are typically signed by the prime 
minister after the cabinet has approved the legislation and is ready 
to forward it to the parliament.  End note.)  According to the Note, 
the draft amendments were prepared pursuant to OSCE recommendations 
and are intended to advance Kazakhstan's bid to chair the OSCE in 
2009. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
MEDIA WATCHDOGS, OSCE STRONGLY CRITICAL 
--------------------------------------- 
 
5. (U) The media NGOs said the proposed amendments fall far short of 
OSCE standards.  In their view, the only positive is the removal of 
imprisonment as criminal punishment for defamation in some cases. 
However, the law retains various forms of punishment for defamation 
and leaves journalists vulnerable to punishment for defamation, 
including serious fines.  In addition, the amendments would add a 
provision punishing the dissemination of true information that 
concerns the private life of a citizen and derogates his honor and 
dignity.  The media NGOs fear this provision will further chill the 
freedom of journalists to report information critical of government 
officials. 
 
6. (U) The media NGOs also expressed frustration that Minister of 
Culture and Information Yermukhamet Yertysbayev has failed to 
deliver on his frequent promises of new media legislation to 
increase media freedom, decriminalize libel, and demonopolize the 
media in Kazakhstan.  The NGOs noted that Yertysbayev's previous 
statements on the issue concerned relatively superficial changes to 
the law, and that the draft amendments now circulating were even 
more disappointing than what he had floated in the past.  The groups 
also questioned the motives of the Ministry of Interior's new 
interest in drafting media law amendments and noted its lack of 
expertise in this area. 
 
 
ASTANA 00002807  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
7. (U) On October 9, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media 
Miklos Haraszti sent a letter to Minister of Interior Baurzhan 
Mukhamedzhanov asking him to withdraw the amendments.  In a public 
statement announcing the letter, Haraszti said that the proposed 
legislation contravenes Kazakhstan's OSCE commitments on freedom of 
the media, and
noted that his office was still reviewing a draft 
media law for Kazakhstan that the government submitted in April. 
Haraszti stated that the new amendments offer substantially less 
decriminalization than the broader media law draft circulated in 
April.  According to Haraszti, journalists could still be prosecuted 
for defamation under the new amendments, the amendments still 
provide special protection for the president, and criticism of some 
public officials could still be punished with prison sentences. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
GOVERNMENT LARGELY SILENT IN RESPONSE TO CRITICISM 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
8. (U) On October 1, the Ministry of Interior spokesman briefly 
commented on the statement by the media NGOs during his weekly press 
briefing.  He expressed surprise that the NGOs were so critical to 
legislation, because the police were actually seeking more freedom 
for reporters.  He speculated that the NGOs may have been confused 
by difficult terms in the legislation.  The Government of 
Kazakhstan, including the usually outspoken Yertysbayev, has 
otherwise been silent on the proposed legislation. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
9. (U) Comment.  The draft amendments as circulated by the media 
NGOs are inconsistent with past signals from the government 
concerning their plans for amending the media law, though the 
government has not disavowed them and Yertysbayev has been unusually 
silent on the issue.  On their face, the amendments represent very 
superficial changes to the defamation law, and may actually serve to 
restrict free speech by allowing punishment for the dissemination of 
true information about the private life of individuals.  However, 
it's not clear at this point if the amendments will pass in their 
current form and whether they constitute the full scope of planned 
reforms to the media law.  Post will continue to monitor the 
legislation and advocate for changes to the media law that comply 
with international standards. End comment. 
 
MILAS

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