Who is Really Hunting Newsrooms in Kazakhstan?

Judging from the storm in the Kazakh media space that happened after the searches in publishing houses of internet-portal Ratel.kz and the Forbes.kz magazine, government vertical of Kazakhstan has made a huge mistake once again.

Due to this question arise again, for which there are no answers: why doesn’t Akorda realize that incompetent actions of authorities, even if they have a firm legal foundation, in current state of affairs automatically cause scandals, and also when will they learn not to shoot themselves in the foot.

Because it is far from necessary to conduct police raids on the publications of popular media outlets, taking away journalists by force, conducting searches at their homes, taking away everything including computers and kids’ cell phones. When something similar was practiced regularly in the past against opposition publications, this semi-criminal tactic had a reason behind it, since it sought the goal of scaring journalists and employees of publications, to break their will for resistance, as well as to apply pressure on them and their surroundings, journalistic society as whole, in order to dissuade them from cooperating with the “wrong” publication.

Forbes.kz and Ratel.kz even with all of their criticism towards Kazakhstani realities cannot be called opposition sources. The former belongs to multimillionaire and media-mogul Armanjan Baitasov, the latter to a journalistic collective, that has been on the market for many years and was always able to compromise with Kazakhstani authorities. And now the media space of the country has been shaken up for the third time in a month, since before that high profile stories took place with the boy from SCO, who was abused, and the story with taking away of blue balloons from Kazakh citizens who never even heard of Muhtar Ablyazov and DVK.

Of course it is easiest to blame everything on mid-level police chiefs, who tried too hard, or on an “order” from a famous entrepreneur Zainulla Kakimjanov, who in the past year has become an epic suffocator of free speech in the country, and who manages courts in the way he wishes, and who nobody’s safe from.

However, this is not so.

Based on insider information, an incident with Ratel.kz and Forbes.kz was due to intersection of two conflicting lines of interest:

  • Strife between editorials of these publications with Kakimjanov.

  • Strife between billionaire Bulat Utemuratov and his influential political opponents in Akorda.

At the same time, the latter use the conflict between journalists and Kakimjanov family to accomplish their tas, since they won’t to reign in Forbes.kz, if not to take it away from Baitasov completely, than at least put it under their unofficial control. And at the same time, it looks like they decided to put Ratel.kz in its place, a company which we remind, got a second life, under previous presidential administration, but later, due to departure of Nigmatullin into parliament, and his assistants to jail got out of hand.

Based on insider information, Bulat Utemuratov’s problems don’t end there. The chances for success of these opponents of Utemuratov, are quite high. The owner of Forbes.kz Armanjan Baitasov, a close confidant of his, is too careful, especially in the backdrop of problems of another famous Kazakh businessman of his generation Iskander Erimbetov. In any case, when in the past when told to sell cable systems, he did.

As for Bulat Utemuratov himself, he is a figure who is much more resistant to pressure, plus he still possesses considerable political weight. However, by our estimates, he likely won’t be able to withstand, especially if law enforcers start to question his sons.


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