08ASTANA411, KAZAKHSTAN: UPSURGE IN NEGATIVE MEDIA COVERAGE OF

WikiLeaks Link

To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.
Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #08ASTANA411.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA411 2008-03-03 11:21 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO3151
PP RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0411/01 0631121
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031121Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1870
INFO RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 0264
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0413
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1873

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000411 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KIRF KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: UPSURGE IN NEGATIVE MEDIA COVERAGE OF 
NONTRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS GROUPS 
 
REF: Astana 113 
 
ASTANA 00000411  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: Several media outlets in the last month have 
published or broadcast stories critical of religious groups not 
traditional to Kazakhstan, such as evangelical Protestant 
Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, and Hare Krishnas, 
depicting them as dangerous sects harmful to society.  The stories 
are consistent with warnings found in the recently-adopted state 
program on religion and with President Nazarbayev's January 17 
speech criticizing foreign missionaries and religious radicalism. 
Almaty Helsinki Committee chairperson Ninel Fokina claims the media 
stories were ordered and paid for by the government and are designed 
to help lay the groundwork for amendments to the religion law. End 
summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
MINORITY RELIGIOUS GROUPS FACE NEGATIVE MEDIA BLITZ 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
2. (U) In recent weeks, there have been a spate of hostile stories 
in the Kazakhstani media regarding non-traditional religious groups. 
 On February 15, the national Express-K newspaper published an 
article entitled "Sect in the City," featuring an interview with a 
Committee for National Security (KNB) agent involved in combating 
religious extremism.  The article declared that "[p]ractically any 
insane person in our country can get his religious group registered 
and proclaim himself a Messiah, Superman, or God's envoy," and 
criticized weak national legislation allowing "religious swindlers" 
to operate in the country. The KNB agent, identified only by a 
pseudonym, spoke extensively about the dangers of sects and how they 
compel members to give up their property, become distant from their 
families, and renounce their historical beliefs.  He also stated 
that in some cases, foreign intelligence agents work undercover as 
religious missionaries. 
 
3. (U) The agent specifically criticized the Unification Church, 
Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, and Hare Krishnas, and claimed 
that these groups run big industrial and financial empires and 
aspire to obtain power over the whole world.  He further explained 
that new Christian and Buddhist organizations are as dangerous to 
Kazakhstan as Islamic extremists, as adherents of these groups lose 
everything, turn away from society, can no longer be trusted to 
serve in the army or do responsible work, and will ultimately blow 
themselves up like Al-Qaeda suicide bombers if called upon to do so 
by their sect.  He rejected criticism by human rights activists that 
the KNB infringes on religious freedom, and said that such opinions 
were "paid for by bourgeoisie grants exclusively."  Finally, he 
urged parents to call the authorities if they or their children are 
being threatened by a sect. 
 
4. (U) On February 17, government-owned Kazakhstan TV broadcast a 
story about the threat facing Kazakhstan from various religious 
teachings and sects, mostly from abroad.  The reporter quoted 
President Nazarbayev's January 17 speech in which he warned that 
Kazakhstan should not become a "garbage heap" for religious groups 
(reftel), and said that many groups which have no support in their 
own countries were finding haven in a tolerant Kazakhstan.  The 
broadcast featured an interview with a husband who claimed he was 
unable to free his wife from the influence of the Jehovah's 
Witnesses, as well as an interview with a prison official 
complaining about churches like the New Life Church sending books 
and other materials to prisoners.  The reporter concluded by warning 
that "destructive and totalitarian sects can operate in Kazakhstan 
on a legal basis" and that missionaries can lead to the "emergence 
of religious extremism at any point." 
 
5. (SBU) Fedor Zhitnikov, national chairman of the Jehovah's 
Witnesses in Kazakhstan, told us that a local television station in 
Semey (East Kazakhstan Oblast) aired a half-hour program about the 
Jehovah's Witnesses in mid February.  According to Zhitnikov, the 
program attempted to defame the Jehovah's Witnesses, showing several 
members of the community and then adding negative comments depicting 
them as extremists.  He claimed that the program was initiated by 
municipal officials. 
 
6. (U) On February 19, independent television Channel 31 broadcast 
an interview with a woman in Shymkent whose son became a Jehovah's 
Witness, leading to a serious conflict within the family.  The woman 
claimed that "Western pastors" specifically target disabled people 
like her son, who is deaf.  The broadcast also featured an interview 
with a religious scholar who criticized unspecified groups for 
handing out booklets on the street and leading people astray. 
During the broadcast, officials from the South Kazakhstan Oblast 
Department of Internal Policy expressed hope that the parliament 
will pas
s new religion law amendments this year to better control 
the situation. 
 
 
ASTANA 00000411  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
7. (U) On February 20, the national Liter newspaper published an 
article critical of the Baptist Council of Churches, the branch of 
the Baptist church in Kazakhstan that refuses to register with the 
government as a matter of principle (see the 2007 International 
Religious Freedom Report for Kazakhstan).  According to the article, 
the Baptists have repeatedly refused to register and continue to 
meet together illegally, despite warnings from law enforcement 
officials.  The author concludes that the Baptists think "earthly 
affairs" such as registration with the government are not 
important. 
 
8. (U) On February 25, the national Megapolis newspaper published an 
article critical of the Church of Scientology.  According to the 
author, about a dozen Scientology groups are active in Kazakhstan, 
and some are registered. (Note: According to the Religious Issues 
Committee in the Ministry of Justice, there were four registered 
Scientology groups in the country as of April 2007.  End note.) The 
article portrayed the group as pernicious and militant, determined 
to infiltrate Kazakhstani society and politics and bring church 
members to power.  The author explained that the Scientologists have 
run into problems in other countries, but were now prepared to 
"cultivate Kazakhstan's virgin lands." 
 
-------------------------------------- 
NEGATIVE COVERAGE LINKED TO GOVERNMENT 
-------------------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU) According to Ninel Fokina, chairperson of the Almaty 
Helsinki Committee, the recent negative media coverage indicates 
that the government has begun implementing its recently-adopted 
program for government activities in the religious sphere (reftel). 
The program warns of the "increasingly active operation of 
non-traditional religious groups" and lax regulation of missionaries 
and the dissemination of religious materials.  The program also 
calls for using the media to educate the public about the dangers of 
religious extremism and destructive sects, including contracting 
with the media to provide for "a set of on-going columns, TV series, 
and radio programs on national and local media on religious freedom 
issues and prevention of religious extremism." (Note: Government 
contracting with the media is widespread in Kazakhstan.  Government 
agencies receive budget allocations for media publications and sign 
contracts with journalists and media outlets to publish stories on 
themes desired by the agency.  End note.) 
 
10. (SBU) Fokina contended that the recent spate of negative media 
coverage was ordered and paid for by the government as part of the 
program.  She said that the pro-government nature of the outlets 
involved, such as Express-K, Kazakhstan TV, and Megapolis, supports 
this claim.  In addition to educating the public about the purported 
dangers of these religious groups, she told us she believes the 
media coverage is part of a larger strategy by the Ministry of 
Justice to lay the groundwork for amendments to the religion law. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
11. (SBU) Comment:  The timing of the news stories, the consistent 
themes, and the government program's call for government-contracted 
media coverage all strongly suggest that these negative news stories 
are part of a government campaign to combat what it apparently views 
as religious extremism.  The specific identification and criticism 
of groups such as evangelical Protestant Christians, Jehovah's 
Witnesses, Scientologists, and Hare Krishnas raise serious concerns 
that the authorities are moving to define religious extremism very 
broadly.  Though hundreds of these groups are currently registered 
and active in Kazakhstan, we believe the Ministry of Justice and 
other agencies will likely increase the pressure on these groups and 
continue pushing for more restrictive legislation.  End comment. 
 
ORDWAY

Wikileaks

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: