In December 2017, the President of Kazakhstan signed a series of amendments to the country’s media law (Amendments and Alterations to Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Information and Communication). The amendments introduce many changes that affect the work of journalists, editors, and editorial staff, including:
- Revised procedures for requesting and receiving information;
- New responsibilities for journalists;
- New provisions on the use of images and photos in the media; and
- Revised procedure for publishing refutations and responses in the media.
Officials and media lawyers presented these and other major amendments with little or no clarification. Internews believes that the new provisions include additional restrictions for the media, and increase control and monitoring of the information field under the pretext of supporting information security and preventing terrorism.
In a letter, Sergey Karpov, Communications and Information Specialist for the UNESCO Almaty Cluster Office, said that he agreed with Internews’ “conclusions about the Kazakh media law and its incomplete compliance with international principles and standards for ensuring the right of freedom of expression.”
He added, “Despite the large-scale access of people to information, the polarization of political life and the development of technologies led to the rapid spread of hate speech, “fake” outbursts, which caused a disproportionate restriction of freedom of expression.”
To respond to this challenge and to support local media, Internews lawyer Olga Didenko conducted a free webinar on January 8: “The new provisions of the media law: What do journalists and editors need to know?” The webinar explained:
- How to understand and follow the new norms;
- How the new amendments will affect journalists’ work; and
- Liability and consequences for violation of the new requirements.
A total of 164 representatives (72 female and 92 male) from media outlets and CSOs attended the webinar and submitted nearly 80 questions. Internews will post multimedia Q&A cards addressing the most important questions on all Internews online platforms and social media. The webinar is now available on A2I project website Newreporter.org, along with presentations and key documents for journalists, including a list of state and other secrets protected by the new legislation as well as updated templates for requests for official information.
Following the webinar three local media outlets produced their own content about the amendments:
- The-steppe.com produced a publication based on the Internews webinar and interviews with Olga Didenko and Olga Groznaya, Internews Media Advisor.
- Channel 31 produced a news story on the amendment banning anonymous comments and information sharing on the internet. The piece includes commentary from Olga Didenko.
- Alau-TV produced a story on the new amendments with comments from Erzhan Suleimenov, Internews Country Director for Kazakhstan.
Internews will conduct another media law webinar in mid-January 2018 reviewing the laws on advertising, TV and Radio Broadcasting, and information technology, which were revised in conjunction with the media law. This webinar will bring together major media and NGOs in Kazakhstan to discuss urgent issues for the Kazakh media industry: new regulations on satellite and terrestrial signal devices; new procedures for the transition to digital terrestrial television and radio broadcasting; and how to support local independent media through the changes.
In his letter, Karpov also thanked “Internews in Kazakhstan for its help and work on harmonization of media legislation.”