LITER-Nedelya: How do you assess the situation with the arrests of Vladimir Kozlov and Igor Vinyavskiy? What is your attitude toward the admisitrative arrests of the opposition leaders?
Е.Е.: I do not consider them to be opposition leaders. We have opposition leaders such as Serikbolsyn Abdildin or Zharmakhan Tuyakbay, who have long been engaged in opposition activities, they participated in the presidential election as candidates for the presidency. They criticise President Nazarbaev, they criticise the political system, they do not accept the strategic course of the head of the state, they do not often mince their words. But they act within the limits of the Constitution and the laws, so no one touches them. However, when Tuyakbay violated the laws or regulations relating to the holding of unauthorised rallies, the court imposed fines against him. The same situation was with Abilov and Kosanov. But in general, I repeat, most opposition politicians respect the legislation of Kazakhstan, and not only in terms of the procedures of the conduct rallies.
As for Kozlov and Vinyavskiy, I regard them not as an opposition politician and a journalist, but rather as mere mouthpieces of the state criminal Ablyazov, against whom legal action was taken not only by Kazakh and Russian, but even by the British justice system. State criminal Ablyazov stole billions of dollars from the Kazakh state andfrom the Kazakh people, He is one of the biggest financial fraudsters and conmen of modern times. Actually, Ablyazov has financially supported the ‘Respublika’ online portal and newspaper, the ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, as well as the ‘K+’ and ‘Stun TV” [‘Stan TV’] TV channels for a long time. The main objective of the Albyazov’s media holding is to overthrow the existing state-political system in Kazakhstan by means of ‘ colour revolution’, riots, chaos and violence. We should call a spade a spade! When the U.S. ambassador is standing up for them, when the international human rights organisations are demanding to release Kozlov and Vinyavskiy, they have an extremely one-sided approach to this issue, focusing exclusively on the notion of the ‘opposition leader’ and the ‘editor-in-chief’, while they do not take into consideration the specific actions that these individuals take, violating the Constitution and the Criminal Code.
LITER-Nedelya: It turns out that it is not safe to oppose and criticise the authorities?
Е.Е.: In Kazakhstan, we have many political activists who oppose the authorities, and many different media sources, which sharply criticise the authorities. But these newspapers are try to give a truthful, objective and unbiased report. The ‘Golos Respubliki’ and the ‘Vzlgyad’ build their editorial policy on lies and misinformation, permanent distortion of the facts, indirect and direct calls for disobedience, confrontation, and encourage open action against state bodies.
Last year, when the strike of oil workers began in Zhanaozen, Ablyazov repeatedly addressed his provocative appeals to the workers, calling for them to capture the public authorities and to establish their own bodies (which was a gross violation of Article 5 of the Constitution of the RK). And which newspapers have gladly reprinted these anti-constitutional appeals? It was the “Respublika” and the ‘Vzglyad’. As for the TV channel “K +”, they carry out acts of real information terrorism against Kazakhstan. There is such a term as ‘national security’. Information security is an important component of national security. Every country in the world protects its information security. In USA there is a list of banned websites (pornographic, extremist and terrorist websites). So, the “Respublika” and “K +” are an example of real information terrorism and extremism, and all those who work in these newspapers, either deliberately or for financial gain, are accomplices of information terrorists. The activities of these newspapers is a classic example of political extremism, commitment to extreme views and actions contained within their ideologies and policies.
LITER-Nedelya: Can you please name a few particular examples so that we are not accused of empty words?
Е.Е.: It is easy. I opened the ‘Golos Respubliki’ newspaper and I read the title of the article: ‘The Zhanaozen people will take revenge on the killers’. The title and the contents of the article is not only biased and provocative but is also a direct appeal to start riots. Only a court can convict a person of murder. Why hasn’t this newspaper ever mentioned dozens of destroyed buildings, looted shops and ATMs, dozens of injured police officers and civilians? Why isn’t there a word about the looters, the instigators and organisers, about the real criminals? Why does this newspaper intentionally and monstrously exaggerate the number of fatalities? We mourn the dead, but we also know that it was an EXTRAORDINARY SITUATION, which, in fact, occurred for the first time within the last 20 years of independence of Kazakhstan. It was a provocation prepared for the day of the 20th anniversary of independence. It does not mention that it what was the “crowd effect” and the crowd was upset. That ‘Taraz syndrome’ hung heavily over internal troops and Special Forces (four days before the Zhanaozen riots started, a terrorist in Taraz killed seven law enforcement officers). Nor does it mention that several police officers in Zhanaozen were forcibly relieved of their service weapons. That it was for the first time in the history of Kazakhstan (including the Soviet period) that criminals and bandits burned down a building of public authority. I am not advocating the special forces workers, but I want to ask you one question: when a bottle or other unidentified object is flying in his direction, should he wait until it lands, make sure that it’s not a grenade, not a petrol bomb, and shoot only then? An American policeman fired 12 bullets (!) into my countryman, Karaganda-inhabitant Kirill Denyakin, simply because Denyakin had his hands on his belt and made just a half-step toward the police officer. The Court fully justified the policeman. I do not want to defend or justify the actions of the special forces in Zhanaozen, especially that the General Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal investigation into the legality of the use of firearms. But when a newspaper uses the word ‘killer’ without any hesitation and, in fact, calls for vengeance, for a further escalation of the conflict, then this is evidently a gross violation of the Constitution and the law on mass-media.
The second example: in the same newspaper, the title of the article was the following- “Zhanaozen is Khatyn in Kazakhstani style.” Just for the title of the article a criminal investigation could be initiated. For 20 years we have lived relatively happily and peacefully. Kazakhstani people want stability and predictability, a sustainable development of their country. On the day of the 20th anniversary [of independence], a few dozens paid provocateurs came to the square in Zhanaozen. A state of emergency was declared. What happened was a tragedy that no country in the world is insured against. The authorities acknowledged the errors made, the president went to Zhanaozen and met with the people. A governmental commission was established, huge financial means were allocated for the restoration of the city, compensation was paid to the families of the deceased. Work in this regard is being continued. And after all this, comparing the situation in Kazakhstan with the Nazi regime is an appalling exaggeration! Khatyn was a place where Nazi policy of genocide, mass killing of hostages and the state policy of destruction of ‘inferior races’ were carried out. I do not know exactly who wrote this dirty article, but surely these weren’t journalists. These were thugs for whom nothing is sacred; they are literally prepared to betray their fatherland for money. You really must excuse me, that I’m so emotional about it. But, you know -I’m just boiling with anger at this entire thing!
LITER-Nedelya: And still, what are Kozlov and Vinyavskiy specifically accused of?
Е.Е.: They were charged under Article 164 of the Criminal Code of the RF – ‘inciting social discord’.
LITER-Nedelya: Can you explain to us what it is? Many people ask questions, and many are perplexed by this charge. Many media sources do not know how to interpret ‘social discord’ and ‘inciting’ as such …
Е.Е.: In all the constitutions and the laws of developed countries in the world, inciting social discord is perceived as a grave crime. What did the Bolsheviks build their policy on… On the Marxist-Leninist theory of class struggle. Later, Stalin brought this theory to the monstrous idea that the further we move toward socialism, the more intensified the class struggle becomes. Dozens of millions were killed, including the flowers of the nation – the rich, wealthy, prosperous and industrious people. Hitler called his doctrine ‘National Socialism’ and replaced the class struggle with racial struggle. And once again, dozens of millions were killed. Red Khmers in Kampuchea in 1979 destroyed half of the country. They began with inciting social discord, sowed fear, arousing the hatred of one part of the population toward the other.
Let’s take the ‘K+’ online channel: they have their ever-present topic of the ‘rich and drowning in luxury city of Astana” and “poor oil companies, on the money of which officials and oligarchs live.” So, in fact, hatred of authority, of the capital city, of the state and the political elite is being permanently incited. Moreover, both directly and indirectly separatism is encouraged, open calls to revolt, first locally and then nationally, are made. It is an obviously propaganda and agitation, which incite social hatred and enmity. And since it is done in the media, the likelihood of reaching a vast number of people with these statements which incite social discord is increased.
LITER-Nedelya: And what is done in such cases in other countries around the world?
Е.Е.: In Germany, Article 13 of the Criminal Code states that anyone who arouses hatred against a certain segment of the population, or angrily ridicules such, may be penalised with up to 5 years’ imprisonment. In Northern Ireland, criminal prosecution is initiated against people who use expressions which are threatening, insulting and offensive in their meaning and in form. In India, the punishment of up to five years of incarceration is prescribed for inciting inter-communal and inter-caste hatred. If such acts are committed in the media and editors and journalists are involved, the punishment should be even more severe.
The power of speech is well known. The word inspires and encourages, but it can also kill. You know that Zhanaozen is number one town in Kazakhstan not only in population growth within the last 20 years due to an ill-considered, uncontrolled immigration policy. Zhanaozen certainly takes first place in Kazakhstan in the number of satellite dishes on residential buildings. In fact, in every apartment, people tuned in, watched and listened to anti-state, information terrorists ‘K +’. Who, by the way, paid for such an expensive project as the supply of satellite dishes to this town of one hundred thousand inhabitants? The question is not rhetorical. In fact, within the last year, or maybe one and a half years,, by means of appealing to the sensuous, irrational, emotional and volitional components of social consciousness, the entire town became ideologically brainwashed and is now heading in the direction set up by these state criminals.
Therefore, I categorically reject any verbal attacks and groaning about the arrests of the ‘opposition leaders and journalists’. If we really had a dictatorship, all those involved in information and ideological war which the Ablyazov’s media holding is waging against Kazakhstan would have been arrested long ago. Someone wants to destroy the stability of Kazakhstan and to destroy the social and ethnic peace, and the state has the right to protect its national security: the security of citizens and the country as a whole.
We have a Constitution, and Article 20 reads: “Freedom of speech and creative work is guaranteed. Censorship is prohibited. ” Please, dear journalists, write whatever you see fit! Criticise! Expose everything to tough and straight-talking critique! Demand higher wages and pensions! Demand higher taxes on the rich! Demand the decrease of the income-gap between the rich and the poor! All of this is called social policy. But if you incite hatred of the poor to the rich, if you are implicitly and explicitly call for revolt, you urge citizens to go to the streets and build barricades against the existing government, you are committing a crime. If you are blatantly misrepresenting the facts, you provide an extremely one-sided coverage of events, you build your editorial policy on lies and misinformation, then you are a threat to national security, to society and citizens of Kazakhstan.
I have said it before and I will repeat it: “Democracy is the governance of a majority which respects the rights of minority.” The majority respects the rights of the minority, they have their own print and electronic newspapers, their own organisations. Criticise and reject our policies, but do it in compliance with the Constitution and the law. But if you transgress the law, it means that the minority wants to impose its opinion on the majority. It is a violation of the law. Just recently I went to the “Respublika” portal and read another interview with Vinyavskiy who stated: “They say that war is not over until its last soldier is dead.” What can destroy a newspaper? The militarization of editorial policy, the militarization of consciousness, the search for an enemy, who definitely needs to be fought against. You know, actually, it has nothing to do with journalism. This is either a disease or, a lot of money is being paid in return for the adoption of this “editorial policy”. And in both cases, conflict with the state is inevitable.
LITER-Nedelya: So what do you think, will the ‘Respublika’ and the ‘Vzlgyad’ still be published?
Е.Е.: I remember that there was a website called ‘COMPROMAT.KZ’. A lot of grime and insults, slander and misinformation had been posted on this site. Rumour had it that this site was financed by another state criminal: Rakhat Aliev. But as soon as he fled the country in May 2007, on the very same day; the website ceased to exist. Now, as you know, Ablyazov was sentenced by a British court to 22 months’ imprisonment for contempt of court, but he simply he cheated justice, controlled stolen assets, etc. Once he is actually sent to prison, and he finally returns the stolen funds to the BTA Bank, on the same day these so-called ‘opposition media’ will cease to exist. I think everyone could see that all the talk that in Kazakhstan there is “an authoritarian regime and no justice” that Aliev and Ablyazov were “persecuted for political reasons” was just total nonsense. A British court convicted Ablyazov. The public prosecutor in Vienna (Austria) does not agree with the decision of the Austrian court which refused to deport Aliev to Kazakhstan. These are the facts.
LITER-Nedelya: What is your opinion regarding the fact that a number of public figures are demanding the abolition of the Ministry of Information? They say that this agency is not needed.
Е.Е.: I am strongly against such proposals. And it is not because I once headed this Ministry. First, the full name of the agency is the Ministry of Culture and Information. Secondly, the information unit, archives, publishers, information state orders – this is just one of many activities of this ministry. Tamara Kaleyeva said that “Europe has not even heard about this”
(about the Ministry of Information). Maybe they have, but in Western countries, governments have special services for communication with the public and the press. Thus, the U.S. government is among the top 20 highest spending advertisers in the country, competing with such corporations ‘Coca-Cola’ in terms of advertising expenditure. Annual government spending on advertising is 400 million dollars. No wonder Washington was called Hollywood on the Potomac. Government agents spend about a billion dollars on the production of films and audiovisual programmes. The cost of printed production is counted in billions of dollars. The activities of the public relations service costs the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Yes, they don’t have the Ministry of Information. But the public relations service present in all public bodies well and truly replaces this ministry. A powerful PR system exists in the U.S. Congress with their newspapers, newsletters and their own radio and television studio. The first publishing group in France by the number of titles is the state. And an important instrument of the influence of the government on the media is providing them with government subsidies. Of the 14,000 publications issued in France, more than 10,000 receive subsidies from the state on the grounds that their content is of general interest.
The independent Kazakhstan is only 20 years old. Much work remains to be done in further formation and development of a free press, the development and improvement of infrastructure of the printed and electronic media market. To demand the abolition of the Ministry of Culture and Information under these conditions could only be demanded by uncultured and somewhat ignorant people.
LITER-Nedelya: Maybe, they are just upset with the new Minister Darkhan Mynbay? Adil Dzhalilov, the Chairperson of the media alliance, said: “Profession-orientated ministry is not necessary. A profession-orientated Minister refuses to protect journalists. But then, who needs him anyway?”.
Е.Е.: The primary responsibility of a journalist is to provide objective, truthful and impartial information and from this point of view, Mr. Dzhalilov is not just disingenuous, but he grossly distorts the facts, garbles them. The new minister literally said the folowing: “I will protect journalists, but not the editor-in-chief of the ‘Vzglyad’. So please do not generalise. At one time, when I was a minister, I invited Darkhan Mynbay to take the position of Deputy Minister. He graduated from the faculty of journalism of Moscow State University. He worked as the editor-in-chief of tnewswire, the editor-in-chief of the ‘Gorizont’ newspaper, the Vice-President of the republican corporation ‘Television and Radio Broadcasting of Kazakhstan’. He knows the journalistic profession is not ruled by hearsay. So instead of being happy for a colleague, supporting him and cooperating with him, some of the “ultra-democratic” representatives of the media community demanded the abolition of the Ministry. What can I say? Perhaps I could just quote the words of one sage: ”The greatest ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about”. There are four main functions of the media: watching the world (collection and dissemination of information), editing (selection and commenting on the information), shaping of public opinion and spread of culture. In other words, the media provide an extended form of human communication. With the advent of the Internet all these functions have incredibly extended and reached a new quality level. But there is another function, and the most important one, we can say: the main one. Press claims to be the “watchdog of public interest,” to be the eyes and ears of the society, to prevent crises and economic recession, the growth of drug addiction and crime, the growth of corruption in the corridors of power. The media should be independent. But if they start to cross the line, to violate the Constitution and the laws, to call for chaos and anarchy, these media sources enter into conflict with the state and society.
Piotr KARABAEV, Astana