On March 28, 2018, the Public Prosecution Office of the Almaty Medeyski district filed a request to close the Ratel.kz internet portal. The trial is now ongoing. The circumstances surrounding this media-resource have already received a reaction from the OSCE, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists. So far, however, it is unclear what happens next.
Although the verdict is still to be reached, we predict that it will not be crucial. The thing is that Akorda has no reason to “kill” the media since no other similar effective and relatively independent resources exist in Kazakhstan today.
According to the insider information, Ratel.kz’ problems are directly linked to the fact that the project was launched with the unofficial approval of Nurlan Nigmatullin (the then Head of Nazarbayev Administration who later assumed the position of the Head of the Mazhilis in the Kazakhstan Parliament) and is nothing but the response of his political opponents to Seytkazy Matayev case.
It is no secret that the problems of the Kazakhstan Journalists Union Head and his son (they had been convicted and sent to prison where Aset Matayev remains to this day) are the result of the intra-clan fights intensified by some very influential people’s claims to the assets belonging to Seytkazy Matayev and his family. With that, the Kazakhstan Journalists Union building on Nursultan Nazarbayev street in Almaty was supposed to be given to the Ratel.kz editorial office, but the arrangement was changed at the last moment.
Considering the insider information, we believe that Nazarbayev Administration, giving an OK to prosecute the media-resource, is trying to “line up” its management in order to lower their expectation regarding their collaboration. For this reason, we believe that the Almaty Medeuski District court will reach a verdict desirable for both parties.
As a maximum, Ratal.kz might be facing a closure (without prison terms for the journalists) which by no means would impede on the management’s plans to launch the new project. However, the insiders believe this turn of events is unlikely since this resonant story is being followed not only domestically but abroad as well. Akorda fully realizes that, given the escalation of the conflict between Russia (Kazakhstan’s main ally) and the West, there is no sense in putting its head on the block by prosecuting journalists based on some dubious reasons and at the beginning of the new political cycle when the new presidential elections (perhaps the early ones) lie ahead.
Photo from Marat Asipov’s Facebook page