09ASTANA350, KAZAKHSTAN: PRIME MINISTER MASIMOV BECOMES COUNTRY’S MOST

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA350 2009-02-25 23:54 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO2733
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK
RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0350/01 0562354
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 252354Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4731
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1249
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0631
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1337
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0332
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2170
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2498
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0810
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0726
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000350 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI KDEM KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  PRIME MINISTER MASIMOV BECOMES COUNTRY'S MOST 
DISTINGUISHED BLOGGER 
 
1.  (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY: In a surprising development, Kazakhstan's Prime 
Minister Karim Masimov recently posted an edition of opposition 
paper "Respublika" on his government blog.  This is the latest move 
in Masimov's blogging experiment, which is aimed at using the latest 
technology to increase communication with the population and to 
build up the government's image of openness.  Since going live on 
January 1, Masimov's blog has grown in popularity, with readers 
raising a wide range of issues.  Masimov addresses some of the 
issues himself and delegates others to his ministers.  On his order, 
all the ministers except Foreign Minister Tazhin have also started 
blogs.  Masimov's blogging initiative has been welcomed by the media 
and readers, although there are skeptics who say this is just a 
public relations stunt.  END SUMMARY. 
 
PRIME MINISTER POSTS OPPOSITION PAPER 
 
3.  (SBU) On February 20, in a move that surprised many in the media 
community, Prime Minister Karim Masimov posted an edition of the 
opposition newspaper "Respublika" on his government web-log.  The 
posting came after the editors of "Respublika" wrote to Masimov on 
February 4 to complain that their printers in Astana were refusing 
to print the newspaper.  Masimov replied that he had no control over 
the decisions of private businesses and offered the paper space on 
his blog.  "Respublika" initially declined, but, after the paper's 
Internet website was taken down by a cyber-attack on February 13, 
wrote to Masimov again to take him up on his offer.  With a note of 
"I am a man of my word," Masimov posted the paper's most recent 
edition in four Adobe PDF files.  The move was welcomed by the 
blog's readers, who in their comments commended the Prime Minister 
for "keeping his word" and for being the first government official 
"who is not afraid of the opposition press."  In fact, the edition 
of "Respublika" Masimov posted includes an article that accuses him 
of making money for himself through his advance knowledge of the 
tenge's February 4 devaluation. 
 
MASIMOV'S BLOGGING EXPERIMENT 
 
3.  (SBU) Posting the paper that does not shy away from criticizing 
the government is just the latest move in Masimov's experiment of 
using technology to reach out to regular Kazakhstanis and create an 
image of government openness.  Masimov launched his blog on January 
1, when he invited people to share their concerns and promised to 
read their comments personally.  The initiative proved widely 
popular, with readers posting messages in both Kazakh and Russian on 
everything from the poor quality of water in Stepenogorsk and 
heating problems for schools in Shymkent to the status of the Kazakh 
language, the devaluation of the tenge, and the current economic 
crisis.  Masimov has kept up a lively exchange with his readers, 
addressing some of their concerns personally and demanding action 
from his ministers on others.  For example, during a recent Cabinet 
meeting he berated Justice Minister Baliyeva for the large number of 
complaints he received over the quality of services of her ministry. 
 In another instance, Masimov personally visited the public bath in 
Astana that bloggers said was unsanitary.  It should be noted, 
however, that Masimov is selective about which issues he addresses 
-- he chose to leave unanswered the questions about the periodic 
blocking of a popular blogging website, LiveJournal, which is a site 
where President Nazarbayev's former son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, posts 
comments derogatory of the President. 
 
OTHER MINISTERS FOLLOW SUIT 
 
4.  (SBU) On January 12, Masimov ordered that all ministers create 
blogs in order to "establish personal interaction with the people." 
As of today, all the ministers expect Foreign Minister Tazhin have 
blogs on a government portal, which can be found at 
http://blogs.e.gov.kz.  (NOTE: Tazhin reports directly to President 
Nazarbayev rather than to Masimov.  END NOTE.)  Agriculture Minister 
Kurishbayev's blog quickly became one of the most 
frequently-visited, as readers from rural areas uploaded their most 
 
ASTANA 00000350  002 OF 002 
 
 
burning questions.  Observers note that the most substantive blogs 
are those run by the Finance Minister Zhamishev and Economy and 
Budget Planning Minister Sultanov.  Emergency Minister Bozhko is 
said to be the second-quickest resp
onder after the Prime Minister. 
The government official that has received the most praise from blog 
aficionados is Agency for Government Services Chairman Aryn 
Orsariyev, a 32-year-old graduate of the "Bolashak" program which 
sends Kazakhstanis to study abroad at government expense.  Users of 
Orsaliyev's blog can see his photographs, join his group of friends, 
and look through his personal notes. 
 
A WELCOME INITIATIVE 
 
5.  (SBU) The Prime Minister's blogging experiment has stirred up a 
lively discussion in the media.  Overall, the reaction is quite 
positive, with many commentators welcoming the step towards openness 
in the government.  There are some skeptics, however, who see it as 
a public-relations move designed to gain for him a reputation for 
openness and allow critics to "blow off steam," while the overall 
political system still remains fundamentally undemocratic.  Others 
criticize Masimov for failing to put his "personal touch" to the 
postings, saying his blog is nothing more than a national "book for 
customer complaints."  Nevertheless, Masimov's blog has become one 
of the most frequently-visited government websites, receiving over 
one hundred comments a day from teachers, students, government 
employees, and businessmen. 
 
6. (SBU) COMMENT:  The blogging activities of Masimov and his 
ministers set Kazakhstan well apart from its neighbors in using the 
latest technology to communicate with the public and interact with 
civil society.  We do not have enough information to judge whether 
elements of the government are responsible for blocking 
"Respublika's" website, although it is not inconceivable that one of 
the intelligence services could do so.  That Masimov -- who is 
considered one of the government's liberals -- posted the 
"Respublika" edition following the blockage is perhaps an indication 
not just that he is a man of his word, but also that he wanted to 
send a signal that he disapproves of the blockage.  If so, it would 
seem that President Nazarbayev, the ultimate arbiter of what is 
allowed and what is not, is tolerating an unusual amount of open 
diversity at the upper-most levels of the government.  END COMMMENT. 
 
 
HOAGLAND

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