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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ALMATY215
2005-01-21 04:49:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
US Office Almaty
Cable title:  

INDEPENDENT MEDIA OUTLETS COVETED BY NAZARBAYEV

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  KPAO  KDEM  KZ  POLITICAL 
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						UNCLAS  ALMATY 000215 

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EUR/CACEN (JMUDGE), EUR/PPD (JBASEDOW), DRL/PHD
(PDAVIS)

STATE PLS. PASS TO USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KPAO KDEM KZ POLITICAL
SUBJECT: INDEPENDENT MEDIA OUTLETS COVETED BY NAZARBAYEV
FAMILY EMPIRE

Ref: A) Almaty 109 B) Almaty 83



1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Media advocates in Kazakhstan report
that over the past few weeks, momentum has been building to
consolidate ownership of influential media outlets among
Nazarbayev loyalists in advance of the presidential
elections. A source within the presidential administration
revealed that Igor Meltzer, the editor of the successful
weekly newspaper, Vremya, is facing increasing pressure
from the administration to resign his editorship and take
the helm of a public relations agency serving the
administration. A Vremya shareholder, KazKommertzbank
chairman Nurzhan Subkhanberdin, is also being pressured to
sell his stake in exchange for "immunity" from harassment
by national banking conglomerates. NGO sources say another
nominally independent television station, Channel 31, was
recently purchased by President Nazarbayev's son-in-law.
These maneuvers reflect at least an ongoing tendency to
keep media in check, and more likely an acceleration of the
administration's efforts to gain a complete monopoly over
Kazakhstan's most influential media outlets. END SUMMARY.

Vremya: Change at the Helm?


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Citing a source within the presidential
administration, Deutsche Welle carried a report on January
9 stating that since mid-December Igor Meltzer, the editor-
in-chief of a popular weekly newspaper, Vremya, has been
under strong pressure to resign his position as editor and
take the helm of a public relations agency serving the
administration. Vremya's reporting "did not suit" the
administration, according to the source, due to the overall
oppositional tone and in particular for "propagandizing"
the ideas of opposition political party Ak Zhol. Vremya
deputy editor-in-chief Marat Asipov denied the rumors about
pressure from the administration.



3. (SBU) Media observers believe Vremya does receive
financial support from Kazkommertsbank and that bank
director Nurzhan Subkhanberdin, a majority shareholder,
does at times exert influence over the paper's content, in
favor of the Ak Zhol party. Subkhanberdin is not a
registered member of the party. (Note: In early December
Subkhanberdin, along with other heads of Kazakhstan's seven
largest banks, signed a statement addressed to the
President promising not to participate in, or finance, the
activities of political parties.) Meltzer, however, tries
to balance coverage of the presidential administration with
an equal amount of time for the opposition, and he strives
to offer all sides a forum to express their views.

Vremya's Commercial Sponsorship


--------------------------





4. (SBU) Deutsche Welle's source also said Subkhanberdin
had been pressured to sell part of his stake to Bulat
Utemuratov, Secretary of the Security Council and chairman
of the National Commission on Democracy and Civil Society,
in exchange for "immunity" from harassment by national
banking conglomerates. The source said the administration
had already determined that the Halyk (Narodnyi) Savings
Bank would become Vremya's new "sponsor." Former
Presidential economic advisor Grigory Marchenko was
appointed chairman of Halyk Savings Bank on January 10 (Ref
A).



5. (SBU) Ak Zhol co-chairman Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly told
Deutsche Welle that Vremya shareholders affiliated with the
administration have established firm control over the
paper, and any coverage of Ak Zhol members has become
problematic. He also said that someone from the
presidential administration called the paper and forbade it
from publishing pictures of events unfolding in Kiev,
related to the presidential elections there.

Vremya's Management


--------------------------





6. (SBU) Meltzer is well-known for his professionalism and
dedication to the news business. With a circulation of


180,000, Vremya is the most popular newspaper in
Kazakhstan, excluding the weekly Karavan. Meltzer managed
and ran Karavan as a serious newspaper before it was
purchased in 1997 by first son-in-law Rahat Aliyev and
turned into a tabloid. In the mid 1990's Meltzer was
general director of KTK Television, which Aliyev also
purchased. KTK was Kazakhstan's first independent
television station and under Meltzer's stewardship gained a
loyal following for its news programs criticizing
government officials, as well as entertainment programs
catering to a mass audience. KTK's news coverage is now
distinctly pro-administration and sharply critical of the
opposition.

Channel 31


--------------------------





7. (SBU) In other developments, Rozlan Taukina, president
of the media advocacy NGO "Journalists in Trouble,"
reported that second son-in-law Timur Kulibayev has added
Channel 31 to his media empire, which already includes the
Kazakhstan affiliates of Komsomolskaya Pravda, Argumenty i
Fakty, and Moskovskii Komsomolets, as well as Astana TV,
Tan TV, and the daily newspaper, Liter. If true,
Kulibayev's purchase of Channel 31 means that all nine
television networks that broadcast in multiple locations
are owned or controlled either by the state or the
Nazarbayev family.



8. (SBU) Comment: These maneuvers reflect at the least
the administration's ongoing tendency to keep media in
check, and more likely indicate an acceleration of efforts
to gain a complete monopoly over Kazakhstan's most
influential media outlets. Media advocates perceive an
alarming trend to silence dissent, a trend that includes
the one billion tenge ($7.5 million) lawsuit filed by
Dariga Nazarbayeva's Khabar television company in October
against Ak-Zhol's Sarsenbaiulyreft, the December 30
defamation lawsuit filed against former presidential
insider-turned-critic Zamenbek Nurkadilov, and the speedy
ruling January 6 to dissolve the opposition Democratic
Choice of Kazakhstan party (Ref B). If Vremya does end up
in Halyk Bank's portfolio, the question arises, which
outlet is next?



9. (U) Dushanbe minimize considered.

Ordway


NNNN