A London-based correspondent of Kazakhstan's leading state television channel dropped a bombshell last week, saying she was quitting her job because she was "tired of lying."
"I am, at last, leaving," Bela Kudaibergenova wrote on Facebook on December 3, announcing her departure from Khabar television and its online affiliate 24.kz. "I feel extremely happy now. I realized that I have a conscience. I can't lie anymore."
Kazakh social media lit up after the announcement, with some wholeheartedly supporting the well-known journalist's decision and others questioning whether it was prompted by Khabar's plans to shut down its London-based bureau.
Speaking with RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Kudaibergenova expounded on her reasons for leaving Khabar.
She had already planned to leave the channel after the New Year's holidays, Kudaibergenova said, but decided to leave sooner after receiving a particularly disagreeable assignment.
She was asked to cover a gathering organized by the Kazakh Embassy in London on December 2, in the lead-up to Kazakhstan's December 16 Independence Day, as proof that Kazakhs were "a happy nation."
According to Kudaibergenova, she was expected to present the gathering at a luxury hotel as proof that "Kazakhstan is a great country respected by Britain and the international community."
"That was it,"Kudaibergenova said. "I felt that enough was enough, and I could not do it anymore."
During her interview with RFE/RL, she accused Khabar of systematic disinformation of the Kazakh people.
"I think the disinformation is wide-scaled and deep," she said. "It is not only in regard to the domestic situation, but regarding the situation abroad as well."
She also described journalists as "cogs in the wheel."
We find "experts" who say exactly what we "want them to say," Kudaibergenova explained, "and when they say something different, we just get rid of it."
As an example, she said that ahead of her December 2 assignment the Kazakh Embassy recommended people for her to interview. Such interviews, she claimed, are organized to promote Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and "lies about how great Kazakhstan is."
Kudaibergenova, an ethnic Kazakh, was born in Soviet Russia's Astrakhan region and grew up in Moscow.
She had worked for Khabar and 24.kz since 2003, working as a television correspondent in Moscow before moving to London in 2009.
The Almaty-based Caravan weekly, which is affiliated with the Khabar television channel, criticized Kudaibergenova's move in a recent editorial.
According to the newspaper, Kudaibergenova decided "to noisily shut the door" after she learned she would be let go soon. The editorial expressed regret that "some journalists do not respect their own profession."
Kudaibergenova dismissed the comments as "nonsense."