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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ALMATY3453
2005-10-04 14:48:00
CONFIDENTIAL
US Office Almaty
Cable title:  

KAZAKHSTAN: OPPOSITION MEDIA UNDER PRESSURE IN

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  PREL  KZ  POLITICAL 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L  ALMATY 003453 

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CACEN (MUDGE)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/03/2015
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KZ POLITICAL
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: OPPOSITION MEDIA UNDER PRESSURE IN
ADVANCE OF ELECTIONS

Classified By: Ambassador John Ordway, reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).



1. (C) SUMMARY: The risks of doing business with opposition
media in the run-up to the December presidential elections
became apparent when the Vremya Print majority owner
cancelled printing contracts with several opposition
newspapers, fearing reprisals against his business interests.
The papers subsequently signed contracts with a different
printer. The confiscation of opposition newspapers
continued, and the procurator issued a special warning to
Respublika, declaring all versions of the paper illegal and
subject to seizure. The Presidential Administration claimed
that the opposition press was engaged in illegal, premature
election campaigning, but said they would hold back on any
action. They also admitted that seizing newspapers, except
Respublika, was a "mistake" that would not be repeated.
Opposition editors will seek attention and support from the
international community to embarrass the administration into
easing the pressure. The warnings by the procuracy could be
a worrisome signal that critical, independent media may
suffer the consequences of their reporting in court. END
SUMMARY.

Vremya Refuses Lucrative Orders from Opposition Papers


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



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





2. (SBU) On September 26 Vremya Print cancelled their
contracts to print five opposition newspapers, without
explanation (see reftels). At a press conference the next
day, the papers' editors accused the authorities of
pressuring the firm to refuse their orders, and said Vremya
Print was a "victim" of political machinations. They staged
a protest at the firm September 28, demanding an explanation
for the refusal, and called on international observers to
boycott the elections in December. The editors said they Qd
been negotiating with the Aziya Press and Dauir printing
houses, both of which belong to the Nazarbayev family, but
they are "not optimistic" about the outcome. A day later,
however, a contract was signed with the Dauir printing house,
which post understands is owned by presidential sister-in-law
Svetlana Nazarbayeva; the newspapers have continued to appear
without interruption.

Ambassador Discusses Issue With Vremya, Pres Administration


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



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





3. (C) At a meeting with Ambassador Ordway September 28,
Vremya's editor-in-chief Igor Meltzer and general director
Boris Kapelman said the firm cancelled the print orders
because their majority shareholder was worried about
reprisals against his other business holdings. Although they
did not identify him explicitly, it was clear that the

shareholder was Kazkommertzbank Director Nurzhan
Subhanberdin, who is affiliated with the Ak Zhol political
party. In a separate conversation with emboff, Real Ak Zhol
co-chairman and former Minister of Information Altynbek
Sarsenbaiuly (protect) claimed the pressure to cancel the
contracts came from President Nazarbayev, who has for years
been infuriated by the opposition media's criticisms of him
and his administration. In yet another conversation,
opposition presidential candidate Tuyakbay said that based on
his understanding, Almaty akim Tasmagambetov had gone to the
president with samples of the opposition press and asked how
he could run Almaty as the president wished with these kinds
of newspapers printing. He obtained presidential approval
for putting pressure on Subhanberdin to pull the plug on
printing the papers.



4. (C) When the Ambassador asked the Vremya team how the USG
could help, Kapelman said simply agreeing to meet with them
had already had an effect, since information about their
planned meeting had apparently been acquired through a phone
tap and passed through the chain of command. He said that at
3:10pm September 27 Vremya was on the phone planning the
meeting with the Ambassador, and by 7:47pm the official
newswire Kazinfo announced Aziya Press was negotiating to
print the opposition papers. (Note: Western press reports
September 29 confirmed that Aziya and the editors were
negotiating.) Meltzer said 25% of the firm's printing
business came from the opposition press, and he wanted that
business back. He said public statements in support of
independent media from "foreigners" would help, presumably
because such statements would focus international attention
on the harassment of opposition media.



5. (C) Ambassador Ordway raised this case by phone with
Assistant to the President Karim Masimov on September 26.
The next day Masimov invited the Ambassador to a meeting with
Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Baurzhan


Mukhamedzhanov, and the Ambassador reiterated the dire
consequences of an election campaign with no opposition
press. Mukhamedzhanov said that other printing houses were
capable of printing the papers, and said that this was a
purely commercial issue.

Police Seize More Papers During "Bomb Searches"


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

--



6. (SBU) On September 5 in Kostanay police seized opposition
newspapers from the offices of the Alga opposition party.
(Note : the latter started as a radical break-away movement
from the now-banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan.)
According to Alga's press service, the police entered without
a warrant, said they were searching for a bomb, and seized
all issues of Syet'.kz, Assandi Times, Soz, Lad, Zhuma
Times-Data Nedeli, Nasha Gazeta, Epokha and Svoboda Slova.
On September 23 local police in Pavlodar, once again claiming
they were searching for a bomb, stopped a car making
deliveries, and seized the "banned newspapers" Epokha and
Data Nedeli. Svoboda Slova editor-in-chief Gul'zhan
Yergalieva, said copies of her paper were regularly being
confiscated from wholesale distributors, from trains that
deliver copies to the regions, and from vendors.



7. (C) At the Ambassador's September 27 meeting,
Mukhamedzhanov volunteered that the "raid" on Alga was a
mistake, and that the Minister of Internal Affairs had been
instructed to hold the overzealous enforcers accountable. He
defended the confiscation of "banned" newspapers, i.e.,
Respublika and all its aliases, but added that the
confiscation of Zhuma Times was a mistake and should not
happen again.

More Bad News for Respublika From Court and Procurator


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



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





6. (SBU) On September 12, in the latest of a series of
unfavorable rulings, the inter-district economic court of
Almaty ruled that Respublika's attempts to transfer ownership
from Bastau, Ltd. to New Pi Ar, Ltd. were invalid, and thus
the paper had no legal right to publish. (Note: Respublika
has tried a series of legal maneuvers and name changes to
keep publishing. In May the information ministry ordered
them to stop publishing and revoked their registration.
Court rulings in March and May ordered them to stop
publishing, and annulled their registration). The court also
rejected Respublika's counter-suit, claiming official
negligence on the part of the ministry for failing to
re-register their Syet'.kz version.



7. (SBU) In a statement September 26, the procurator accused
Respublika of repeatedly violating their registration by
publishing under various names, and declared that any issues
of Syet'.kz, Respublika, Pyatoye Izmereniye, or Assandi-Times
would be confiscated. The statement mentioned that annulment
of Syet'.kz's registration, and declared the six issues
published under that name illegal.



8. (SBU) COMMENT: The opposition editors and Vremya
management both agree that shining an international spotlight
on the harassment of independent media could embarrass the
administration into easing up the pressure. With more than
two months before the elections, the warnings by the
procuracy (ref B) could be a worrisome sign that media will
suffer the consequences of critical reporting in court. END
COMMENT.



9. (U) Minimize for Dushanbe considered.
ORDWAY


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