08ASTANA2545, KAZAKHSTAN’S DUVANOV: “YOU’RE LOSING THE INFORMATION WAR

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA2545 2008-12-24 02:46 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO4539
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW
RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV
RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2545/01 3590246
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 240246Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4207
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0970
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0372
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1078
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0543
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0446
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2111

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 002545 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR R, SCA/CEN, EUR/ACE, EUR/RUS, IIP, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PROP SOCI KDEM RS KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN'S DUVANOV:  "YOU'RE LOSING THE INFORMATION WAR 
WITH RUSSIA" 
 
REF:  A) ASTANA 2249 
B) ASTANA 2469 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  Independent journalist Sergei Duvanov judges: 
 
-- the United States is losing the information war with Russia in 
Kazakhstan because we are doing little effective to provide an 
alternative to Russia's massive domination of the information space 
in Central Asia; 
 
-- RFE/RL has little, if any, influence; 
 
-- the ideal would be a non-U.S.-government source like a CNN or BBC 
Russian-language service, or a major Soros-funded effort; and 
 
-- many U.S. "democracy grants" go to recipients with little 
influence. 
 
Duvanov has his own self-interest, but his analysis of the United 
States missing in action in providing Russian-language information 
in Central Asia is wholly accurate.  While we might quibble with 
some of his detailed recommendations, for our own national interests 
we would do well to pay attention to his general views.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
RUSSIA DOMINATES THE MASS MEDIA 
 
3.  (SBU) The Ambassador met December 19 in Almaty with Sergei 
Duvanov, a leading independent opposition journalist, to discuss the 
state of mass media in Kazakhstan.  Duvanov judged the Internet was 
not yet widespread enough to be a serious source of information in 
Kazakhstan, but its influence has grown significantly in the past 
two years, a trend he expects to continue.  With the Internet's 
reach still low, Russian television remains the dominant source of 
information for Kazakhstanis.  Kazakh state television has very 
little influence in the information sphere, and in Duvanov's 
estimation, Russian-language media dominate 90% of Kazakhstan's 
television market and control the most popular Internet news sites. 
Of the local sites, Duvanov named www.kub.info, Eurasia.org.ru, and 
zonakz.net as the most popular, but asserted that none was free of 
its own political spin. 
 
LOSING THE INFORMATON WAR 
 
4.  (SBU) Duvanov does not stake much on Radio Liberty's influence 
in Kazakhstan -- it simply cannot compete with the Russian media in 
popularity.  "There is no counterweight to the false information 
coming from Russia," said Duvanov, giving the example of how the 
majority of Kazakhstanis believe the claims of some Russian channels 
that the United States took over Iraq for oil.  "The information war 
between the United States and Russia has begun again, and the United 
States is losing," he stressed. (NOTE: Similar arguments that lack 
of alternative media sources doomed Kazakhstan to the "information 
periphery" were made at the recent media conference hosted by 
Kazakhstan's Press Club.  See ref. B.) 
 
5.  (SBU) Duvanov outlined several ways in which the United States 
could attempt to level the media playing field.  One would be to 
create something similar to the Voice of America for Central Asia. 
(COMMENT:  The head of opposition party Azat, Bulat Abilov, made the 
same suggestions during his November meeting with the Ambassador 
(reftel A).  Many who remember the Soviet period fondly recall VOA 
in Russian for its high-quality entertainment and objective 
international news.  END COMMENT.)   Another would be to invest in a 
satellite television channel that would provide an alternative to 
the existing Russian channels.  (NOTE:  Duvanov said "no one 
watches" the U.S.-funded InterNews satellite TV effort because it is 
boring.  END NOTE.)  A third would be to create Internet sites that 
would provide objective political coverage and also include 
entertainment.  Duvanov noted that an official U.S. government site 
might be limited in its ability to provide fully objective 
information and suggested it would be better to distance the site 
from the government to allow "more room to maneuver."  For any major 
Russian-language media effort, Duvanov suggested Soros or similar 
funding.  He agreed CNN-Russian would be effective and important in 
 
ASTANA 00002545  002 OF 002 
 
 
providing alternate sources of information on the West.  The 
EuroNews Russian-language channel is currently the best source of 
independent news in Kazakhstan, said Duvanov, and is widely watched 
by the intelligentsia who can afford to subscribe to it.  He added 
BBC in Russian could be the ideal counterbalance to Russian media. 
 
"YOUR DEMOCRACY GRANTS DON'T WORK" 
 
6.  (SBU) Duvano
v judged that many U.S. "democracy grants are not 
working," commenting that a number of recipients rely 90% on the 
U.S. grants to live but have little to show for it.  He suggested 
the U.S. government could more effectively use its grant money to 
support the development of the information sector in Kazakhstan.  He 
suggested the following activities:  build an independent mass 
media, develop a Central Asia satellite channel or Internet site in 
the Russian language, support regional independent newspapers 
(Duvanov commented regional papers outside Almaty and Astana have a 
difficulty finding support, apart from special-interest sources), 
fund "democracy schools" where students and young people can listen 
to lectures by prominent public figures and politicians, and support 
political discussion clubs. 
 
7.  (SBU) COMMENT:  Duvanov is somewhat of a controversial figure in 
Kazakhstan, in large part because of a sordid court case against him 
about six years ago in which he was set up and entrapped; but he is 
fully in the mainstream of civil society activists who understand 
the fundamentals of democracy.  His analysis of the United States 
missing in action in providing Russian-language information in 
Central Asia is wholly accurate.  While we might quibble with some 
of his detailed recommendations - especially those that retrograde 
forces in Kazakhstan could easily counter - for our own national 
interests we would do well to pay attention to his general views. 
END COMMENT. 
 
HOAGLAND

Wikileaks

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