The State of the Kazakh Media
[The Kazakh media] will publish any political view, but like any media, it obeys the laws and cannot be completely reactionary or revolutionary. Regardless, well-grounded criticism is always published. The government initially tried to block it, but that problem was solved because everyone sprung to the defense of the website. Now it is freely accessible and updated quite often.
Unlike my colleague from Uzbekistan, we can receive information from a number of sources, both official and completely unofficial. So you can say that media is a business nowadays in Kazakhstan. The development of the media is no longer as unlimited as it was in the first years.
From the financial side, our newspapers are more or less profitable. They are certainly not all alike. There are newspapers that take a neutral stance toward the government, there are those that are in strong opposition, and there are those that quite openly voice the official opinion. There are some less reputable tabloids where you can read anything at all.
Very recently there was a law passed regarding the national security of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Currently newspapers can only be closed if it’s a court decision, but a certain provision of that law allowed a publication to be closed by state prosecutors. Immediately, it caused a very strong reaction in the media environment. Under that law, it would be possible not only to just close opposition newspapers but also newspapers that simply write something negative about the local government. So under public pressure, this provision was dropped.
Though the situation nowadays is not of media monopoly, publications are coming together as syndicates and conglomerates. Something to note is that the largest media syndicate is owned by Dariga Nazarbayeva, the president’s daughter.
… opposition media in Kazakhstan face the possibility of being closed at any moment. They’re not profitable publications. You don’t buy them at any newspaper stand; in Almaty and Astana there are special places where you can buy those newspapers. They have their websites on the Internet, but it’s harder to access this media.
The newspapers never close in the way that they just come and close it. They are usually sued, and then face bankruptcy, after which they have no choice but to shut down. There was a newspaper called Soldat that published an article about one of the ministers so the minister sued them. The court ruled that they should pay the minister a million and a half dollars, which is a formidable amount, so they closed.
There is lots of other interesting information in the article, and the whole thing is worth a read.
The Kazakh journalist seems to be rather optimistic about the future of Kazakhstan’s media, all things considered. At a recent panel at the Heritage Foundation, US officials voiced concerns that the media in Kazakhstan is uniformly pro-government. Kazakh officials seemed to acknowledge this as true at the event, saying that many newspapers are completely independent, yet publish pro-government opinions by choice.
While the Kazakh interviewee references that this is true, she also paints a more subtle picture of media outlets voicing criticisms of specific policies, but still positive toward the government. She notes that the truth is probably somewhere between the extreme views that dominate the headlines, and the predominance of more measured, moderate articles in the future will be indicative of Kazakhstan’s maturity and development.