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Kazakh Oppositionist Reportedly Barred From Meeting Cheney


http://gdb.rferl.org/88EE2E32-43B5-45DA-A16A-AF5DC12949B6_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/88EE2E32-43B5-45DA-A16A-AF5DC12949B6_mw800_mh600.jpg Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov with his wife (file photo) (RFE/RL) PRAGUE, May 5, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- A Kazakh opposition alliance today said that one of its leaders, Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov, has been barred from traveling to Astana to meet visiting U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on May 6.


In a statement, the For a Fair Kazakhstan alliance says the Kazakh authorities are preventing Zhaqiyanov from leaving his home city, Almaty.


Last month, Kazakh authorities barred Zhaqiyanov and another politician from traveling outside Kazakhstan to meet with European officials.


Zhaqiyanov was released from prison in January after spending over three years in prison for corruption and abuse of power. The opposition maintains his jailing was political.


On May 6, Cheney is expected to meet with other leaders of For a Fair Kazakhstan Movement, as well as leaders of the Naghyz Aq Zhol Party and the Communist Party.


Cheney arrived in Kazakhstan today for talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Energy issues are expected to top the agenda.


Kazakhstan is the second-largest oil producer among the former Soviet republics after Russia. The country's Tengiz oil field is one of the world's 10 largest oil fields. Major American oil companies, including Chevron and Exxon Mobil, are part of a joint venture drilling at Tengiz.


Analysts say Cheney will urge Nazarbaev to develop a pipeline across the Caspian Sea that connects to another extending from the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, through the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and out of the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea.

Media In Central Asia

Ukrainian journalists trying to cover Kazakhstan's presidential election being expelled from the country in December 2005

MUZZLED MEDIA: Below is a brief overview of key media issues in each of the five Central Asian countries. (prepared by Daniel Kimmage)

Kazakhstan
Although Kazakhstan has seen the harassment of journalists and media outlets that fall afoul of the state, the larger problem is one of access -- both to sensitive information and to the larger public.
Asked whether freedom of the press exists in Kazakhstan, Darigha Nazarbaeva -- the daughter of President Nursultan Nazarbaev and a media magnate in her own right -- said recently that one need walk only five minutes in Almaty to find a publication that elaborates "what a bad president we have and how I've monopolized the entire press." And she's right -- an opposition press exists.
But national television, with its enormous potential to shape popular opinion, remains either state-controlled or subordinate to allied interests -- as witnessed by a strict taboo on investigations of alleged corruption in the Nazarbaev family.

Kyrgyzstan
Nowhere in Central Asia has the fate of the media reflected political upheaval as strikingly as in Kyrgyzstan of late. The true fall of President Askar Akaev in March 2005 took place not when he fled the seat of government before an advancing crowd, but when opposition leaders later made an impromptu appearance on state television. A heady period ensued, with revelations of Akaev-era skullduggery suddenly front and center in national media. But the honeymoon proved short-lived.
A post-Akaev political morass deepened through 2005 and early 2006 amid high-profile contract killings and frustrated expectations of political and economic reform. And the media environment followed suit, with initial gains eroded by renewed state interference in television, salaried partisanship in the print media, and the rising influence of organized-crime groups.

Tajikistan
Tajikistan's media environment has seen no such political upheavals. President Imomali Rakhmonov could rule through 2020, as long as he continues to secure reelection. He has consolidated his power in recent years -- seemingly with that aim in mind.
The media have also felt the consequences. As the country nears the end of its first decade since the 1992-97 civil war, the state maintains a firm grip national television and politically relevant print outlets. Meanwhile, a handful of tiny independent newspapers fight an increasingly uphill battle for access to printing facilities and readers.

Turkmenistan
The case of Turkmenistan speaks eloquently of a total stifling of media under blanket state control. News outlets trumpet the cult of President Saparmurat Niyzov and tout the purported glories of Turkmenistan's golden age under his rule. This reduces them to little more than a peephole on an otherwise sealed regime.
The media unfailingly broadcast Niyazov's pronouncements and feast on the latest official to fall from grace. On April 24, for example, former Prosecutor-General Gurbanbibi Atajanov, who recently stepped down after a decade of dispatching onetime colleagues to unenviable fates, begged for mercy on the evening news as the president vilified her for corruption. Those same media outlets ignore whatever fails to fit the script of the decreed golden age.

Uzbekistan
President Islam Karimov insists that Uzbekistan's media are at war. What foreign media reported as evidence of a massacre in Andijon in May 2005, the president and officials have described as an "information attack" intended to undermine Uzbekistan's stability and sovereignty. Print and broadcast outlets, controlled either directly or indirectly by the state, are required to fight off this alleged assault by detailing extremist threats and foreign plots. They are also tasked with explaining the country's shift of geopolitical allegiance to Russia and China.
What space remains goes to a sanitized portrayal of Uzbek reality, with some warts left in -- local corruption and economic difficulties -- to lend credence to the grand official narrative espoused by slogans such as "Uzbekistan, a country with a great future."

Of Related Interest:

Turkmenistan: RFE/RL Journalists Given 15-Day Sentence

Uzbekistan: New Media Resolution Tightens The Screws

Central Asia: Internet Fills Void Left By Media On Religious Freedom Issues

Central Asia: RFE/RL Speaks With Media Monitor About Press Freedom

THE COMPLETE STORY: To view an archive of RFE/RL's coverage of media-related stories, click here.


For regular news and analysis on media issues throughout RFE/RL's broadcast area by e-mail, subscribe to "RFE/RL Media Matters."

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