30 November 2001, Volume
OSCE, UN, AND OAS MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES: 'STRENGTHEN DEMOCRATIC VALUES.'
States should reaffirm and strengthen democratic values in the aftermath of 11 September, said the OSCE, UN and OAS freedom of expression representatives on 21 November after a meeting with NGOs, UNESCO, journalists' associations, and human rights experts in London under the auspices of Article 19. Their joint Declaration stated: "We condemn the criminal terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and extend our deepest feeling of sympathy to the victims. However, we must not allow terror to triumph over human rights in general, and the right to freedom of expression in particular. Guarantees for freedom of expression have developed over centuries but they can easily be rolled back; we are particularly concerned that recent moves by some governments to introduce legislation limiting freedom of expression set a bad precedent. Promoting diversity should be a primary goal of broadcast regulation, including gender equity within broadcasting and equal opportunity for all sections of society to access the airwaves; Broadcast regulators and governing bodies should be protected against political and commercial interference; Effective measures should be adopted to prevent undue concentration of media ownership; Media owners and media professionals should conclude agreements to guarantee editorial independence; Commercial considerations should not unduly influence media content; Elected officials who are media owners must separate their political activities from their media interests; The right to freedom of expression also applies to the Internet; The international community, and national governments, should actively promote universal Internet access, including support for setting up information communication technology (ICT) centers; States should not adopt rules limiting Internet content." The full joint statement can be viewed at http://www.article19.org (Article 19, 21 November)
POLITICAL PARTY CLOSES NEWSPAPER THAT INSULTED FORMER PRESIDENT.
Civic Solidarity party Chairman Sabir Rustamkhany ordered the closure of the party's eponymous newspaper on 28 November, four days after it published an article disparaging deceased former President Abulfaz Elchibey, Turan reported. Members of the conservative wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party that Elchibey headed picketed the Civic Solidarity party's headquarters on 28 November to protest the article. Elchibey's brother Almurad was quoted by "525-qazeti" on 27 November as saying that he will sue the paper for libel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)
RALLY PROTESTS CLOSURE OF OPPOSITION WEEKLY.
Some 100 people took part in Hrodna on 19 November in a protest rally against the closure of the local opposition weekly "Pahonya," Belapan reported. Police charged "Pahonya" Editor in Chief Mikola Markevich as well as journalists Pavel Mazheyka and Andrey Pisalnik with holding an unauthorized demonstration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)CHIEF EDITOR OF OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER SUED FOR LIBEL.
Prosecutors have sued Iosif Syaredzich, the editor in chief of the Minsk-based opposition newspaper "Narodnaya volya," for libel, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 19 November. The lawsuit was instigated by Minsk Oblast Executive Committee Chairman Mikalay Damashkevich in connection with a statement published by "Narodnaya volya" before the 9 September presidential election. The statement, signed by democratic opposition candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk and several other opposition figures, alleged that on 5 September Damashkevich held a conference of raion-level executive officials and instructed them on how to falsify results of the voting. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)
MINISTER FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST 'RESPEKT.'
Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr filed a lawsuit on 28 November against Petr Holub, the editor in chief of "Respekt," over the article in which the weekly last month accused the cabinet of corruption, CTK reported. The government filed its own suit earlier in the month. On 22 October, the cabinet decided that individual lawsuits should be filed by each minister against "Respekt," and Premier Milos Zeman said at the time that the actions would "finally end the existence" of the weekly. Holub reacted by filing a countersuit. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)KAFKA TO RETURN HOME.
The personal library of Franz Kafka (1883-1924), including the first editions of his works, is to be returned to the writer's native Prague, AFP reported on 27 November. The German Porsche automaker said it acquired the library from an antiquarian book dealer in Stuttgart with the purpose of turning it over to the Franz Kafka Society in Prague. The collection includes some 1,000 books and other documents, and has been valued at around $112,000. The Czech-Jewish writer who lived in Prague wrote in the German language. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)
MIEP CHAIRMAN ACCUSES 'NEPSZABADSAG' OF BETRAYING THE FATHERLAND.
Istvan Csurka, the chairman of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), told reporters on 21 November that his party will ask Secret Services Minister Ervin Demeter to investigate whether there is any link between the Romanian secret services, the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), and the "Nepszabadsag" daily, and whether it is permissible for a party and a press organ to serve foreign interests for the sake of achieving electoral success. Csurka said he based his remarks on articles published by the daily pertaining to the Hungarian Status Law. Although the Socialists voted in favor of the bill, he said, they have engaged in "fierce propaganda" against the law and against the government, an action he claimed is tantamount to "betrayal of the fatherland." The daily rejected Csurka's comments and said it will sue him for libel. Csaba Tabajdi, the MSZP deputy parliamentary group leader, said that "if it were up to MIEP, Slovak and Romanian chauvinists, and pro-Nazi extremists, the Carpathian Basin would have been engulfed in flames long ago." In other news, the Budapest Prosecutor-General's Office on 22 November brought charges against seven people for publishing the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In 1999, Aron Monus, one of the accused, obtained a photocopy of the 1974 London edition of the book, and published and disseminated 3,006 copies in Hungary. The indictment stated that the book could be used to mislead those who do not know the history of Jewry in general and Zionism in particular. Monus is also the publisher of a Hungarian translation of Hitler's "Mein Kampf." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)
PRESIDENT ADVOCATES MEDIA CODE OF HONOR.
Addressing a gathering of businessmen in Astana on 27 November, President Nursultan Nazarbaev appealed to them to persuade the media outlets they own to refrain from publishing materials insulting rivals or accusing them of crimes or corruption, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. He suggested that businessmen work with the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Social Concord to draft a code of behavior that would ban such allegations, warning that if they fail to do so he may have to resort to "draconian measures" against privately owned media outlets, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)MEDIA GROUPS ENGAGED IN POLITICAL STRUGGLE.
In Kazakhstan a few leading political groups form a ruling elite which competes with each other in the information sphere. (cimera.org, October)
INFORMATION SECURITY DOCTRINE REVEALS FEAR OF NEIGHBORS.
Although focusing on the danger of external information threats, the Doctrine of Information Security of Kyrgyzstan does not provide specific measures and mechanisms to withstand these challenges. (cimera.org, October)RE-REGISTRATION DRIVE REDUCES NUMBER OF MEDIA OUTLETS.
The re-registration drive launched in April by the Ministry of Justice reduced the number of media outlets from over 600 to around 150. The process also marked the first suit filed by the media against the ministry. (cimera.org, October)
U.S. COMMUNICATIONS EQUIPMENT SENT.
Acting U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Eleanor Nagy and State Secretary in the Defense Ministry Vladimir Gjoreski officiated at the handover of 19 vehicles and mine-removing equipment from the U.S. to Macedonia in Skopje on 26 November, dpa reported. The equipment, which includes communications hardware, office equipment, and computers, is valued at $500,000. Nagy said the gift will enable Macedonians to clear land mines without foreign help. Gjoreski noted that "this donation continues the good cooperation between Macedonia and the U.S.," adding that Washington has given Skopje military aid worth more than $10 million in recent years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)
TRANSDNIESTER BLOCKS CRITICAL RTR REPORT...
A critical report on the Transdniester aired on Russian RTR television was blocked on 26 November, ITAR-TASS and Moldovan media reported. The report was broadcast on the "Vesti nedeli" (News of the week) program and the station's relays in the separatist region were shut down right after the report began. Among other things, the report revealed the involvement of the leadership in Tiraspol in arms trading, smuggling, and its connections to organized crime. It also insisted on the personal involvement of separatist leader Igor Smirnov's son Vladimir in the illicit affairs and said arms are being illegally produced in the Transdniester despite the leadership's refutation of such reports. Transdniester "Information Minister" Boris Akulov said the program was switched off because of a "technical failure" that affected all other Russian-language broadcasts. Akulov said the report will be shown on the local television "in full" but added that "we will [also] provide our comments" and "explain who ordered the report [and] how it was financed." Akulov said two main "beneficiaries" of the report are Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and Tom Zenovich, who is running against Smirnov in the "presidential" elections on 9 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)...AND WILL SUE RTR.
Transdniester "Information Minister" Akulov said on 27 November that the authorities in the separatist region will sue the Russian RTR channel for the "slander of Transdniester and its leadership," ITAR-TASS reported. Akulov said that in the program whose broadcast was cut off by the authorities on 25 November, "we were presented as a criminal territory, where corruption, contraband, and the selling of [illegal] arms flourish." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)
COURT CONFIRMS DECISION TO LIQUIDATE INDEPENDENT TV-6 OWNER...
On 26 November, the Board of Appeals of the Moscow Arbitration Court confirmed the 27 September decision of a first-instance court to liquidate the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation (MNVK), which owns TV-6, Russian agencies reported. An administrative complaint against MNVK had been filed by LUKoil-Garant, a subsidiary of LUKoil, which owns a 15 percent share of MNVK. LUKoil-Garant claims its rights as a minority shareholder were violated when MNVK contracted a 255 million ruble ($7.5 million) debt in January 2001 and income generated by advertising substantially decreased over the past few months. TV-6 officials deny the charge, saying the television network is profitable. Media magnate Boris Berezovsky owns the remaining 75 percent in the network through three shareholders, which include the financial industrial group LogoVAZ (26.5 percent), the private Delfin Company (25.25 percent), and 11 percent by Berezovsky himself. Lawyers for TV-6 said they will appeal the decision, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)...AS SHAREHOLDERS CLAIM THE DECISION IS POLITICAL.
Berezovsky told "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 November that "it is a political decision that will have consequences for the entire country, and I am convinced that the decision was adopted personally by President Vladimir Putin." The Russian state owns more than 14 percent of LUKoil. In an interview broadcast on NTV on 26 November, LUKoil-Garant General Director Mikhail Berezhnoi denied that the decision was politically motivated. Last year, when Gazprom-Media took control of NTV, many NTV journalists, including anchorman and General Director Yevgenii Kiselev, joined TV-6. Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov also protested the court decision to liquidate MNVK. "It is neither in the interest of society, nor in the interest of the state to close down TV-6," Interfax quoted him as saying. Nemtsov added that a decision to close down TV-6 using a court ruling will put an end to the last private television channel in Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)RUSSIAN UNION OF JOURNALISTS PROTESTS AGAINST CLOSING DOWN TV-6...
In a statement signed by Alexei Simonov, the president of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, the Russian Union of Journalists wrote, "The government, continuing to demonstrate its interest in eliminating any independent journalism, once again was able to make use of the well-known weakness of the Russian justice system and its dependence on outside influence." The statement, posted on the Internews website on 28 November, added that "it is patently clear that the company's financial indicators played no role in this decision: for several years, the channel's loss-making didn't bother anyone, but as soon as the new team of professionals arrived, as soon as the channel's ratings began to rise, and its profitability along with them, a shareholder goes to court for the expressed purpose of depriving himself of any opportunity of recovering the money he has invested." The Union of Journalists concluded its statement by calling "on the Russian and international communities not to deceive themselves into viewing this situation as a routine financial dispute and to defend society's right to an information channel independent of the state." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)...AS GAZPROM CONFIRMS ITS WILLINGNESS TO SELL MEDIA ASSETS...
Meanwhile, Gazprom-Media, the media arm of the state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom, declared that it has officially come into ownership of the media assets it received in payment of debts, "The Moscow Times" reported on 29 November, citing a company statement. "Ownership rights will help Gazprom-Media to establish control over the activity of the [media] companies, introduce anticrisis measures, and will speed up the work of financial consultants to evaluate and prepare the assets for sale," the statement said. Last month, Gazprom head Aleksei Miller confirmed his intention to sell the company's media assets, which include NTV television and NTV Plus, THT television, and the Ekho Moskvy radio station. He said details of the sale will be decided in January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)...AND INVESTIGATIVE MAGAZINE 'VERSIYA' CHANGES OWNERSHIP.
The leading Russian investigative publication "Versiya," which belonged to the holding company Top Secret founded by Artem Borovik, has recently been purchased by Aleksei Mordashov, the owner of the steelmaker Severstal, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 27 November. The weekly has since begun a campaign of revealing corruption by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and President Putin. Apparently, Mordashov intends to resurrect the bold reputation that the weekly earned under Borovik, who died in a plane catastrophe last year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)DORENKO NOT TO RUN FOR MOSCOW DUMA.
On 15 November, Sergei Dorenko, a top Russian TV anchorman, decided not to run for a seat in the Moscow city duma, "Ekho Moskvy" reported. According to Dorenko, a recent "unjust" court decision "cast a shadow on his reputation" and his constituency might think that "he is hiding behind his voters' backs to escape possible political provocations." However, Dorenko stated, he will proceed with his political career. Earlier in November, Dorenko was convicted by a Moscow court on charges of "aggravated hooliganism" and given a four-year suspended jail term. A municipal court found Dorenko guilty of hitting naval Captain Valerii Nikitin in April with his Honda sport motorcycle. ("RFE/RL Business Watch," 27 November)NEWSPAPER: U.S. SHOULD SUPPORT INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN RUSSIA.
Russia expects the U.S. Congress to write off part of the Soviet debt to the United States or convert the money owed into a program for development of democratic institutions during forthcoming discussions on U.S. foreign aid, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 November. According to one of the circulating proposals, one-third of the debt would be spent to support independent mass media in Russia and another third would be used to help curtail Russian technological projects with Iraq and Iran that could have dual military and civilian uses. The final third should be invested into the Russian economy, the newspaper reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)CHECHEN FOREIGN MINISTER: WESTERN MEDIA 'REPEATS BLINDLY' RUSSIAN MEDIA.
In a press release dated 21 November, Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov condemned some Western media outlets' tendency to repeat blindly Russian propaganda allegations concerning Chechnya. On 23 and 24 November, Russian military and Federal Security Service (FSB) sources both told Russian agencies that they cannot confirm Russian media reports that Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab has left Chechnya for Afghanistan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)WRITER VIKTOR ASTAFYEV DIES.
On 29 November, Viktor Astafyev died in Krasnoyarsk, agencies reported. He was hospitalized in April 2001 for a stroke and had remained extremely weak, losing his sight last week. Astafyev was born on 1 May 1924. As a representative of the Soviet rural writers of the 1960s, Astafyev mainly wrote on daily life in Siberian villages with the theme of World War II predominate in his novels and short stories. During perestroika, Astafyev turned to nationalist thinking. He was the author of "Shooting Star" (1962), "Blue Dusk" (1968), "The King-Fish" (1972, which won the Soviet state prize), "The Sad Detective" (1986), "Condemned and Killed," (1992), and "The Merry Soldier" (2000). Astafyev also published mainly short stories, which were reprinted in "Shepherd and Shepherdess" (1963-1990) and "The Last Bow" (1954-1992). Astafyev will be buried in his native village of Ovsyanka in Krasnoyarsk Krai. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)
PRESIDENT: NO MILITARY SECRETS TO THE HAGUE.
Vojislav Kostunica told the "Sunday Times" of 25 November that Belgrade will not provide the war crimes tribunal with any documents that contain "military secrets." He did not say what such secrets might be or who will determine what constitutes a secret. Kostunica stressed that his country's political situation remains unstable and that the legal basis for Belgrade's cooperation with The Hague must be thoroughly prepared. Critics have charged that Kostunica is dragging his heels on enacting legislation in order not to offend nationalist voters and because he himself considers the tribunal to be an "anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy." Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has argued that the tribunal is based on UN decisions that have priority over Serbian or Yugoslav law. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE ALLEGED PLOT.
The Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the origins of a list of police -- including members of the elite Red Berets -- allegedly wanted by The Hague, "Vesti" reported on 24 November. The Belgrade weekly "Reporter" recently published a list of 17 persons supposedly under investigation for war crimes, in addition to a list of 345 persons believed to be witnesses to atrocities. Serbian media and political figures have begun speculating about who or what might be behind the publication of the list, the authenticity of which appears dubious. Some suspect a plot to split the police, others a conspiracy to undermine links between the police and the government or simply to destabilize the government. Yet another theory is that the list is a classic journalistic canard aimed at boosting the weekly's circulation. "Reporter" says that its source was unspecified persons close to Kostunica. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)
MECIAR EXONERATES CZECH TV MOGUL OF ANY GUILT...
On 26 November, Former Premier Vladimir Meciar became the second prominent politician to meet with Czech television mogul Vladimir Zelezny, who is under investigation in the Czech Republic for allegedly bilking U.S. businessmen Ronald Lauder and ignoring an international arbitration court that ruled against him, dpa reported. Last week, Zelezny was received by Czech opposition leader Vaclav Klaus. After the meeting, Meciar said, "For me, this man is innocent." Zelezny, the owner of Czech Nova television, was recently granted the right to start a television channel in Slovakia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)...AND MOGUL FILES SUIT AGAINST INVESTIGATOR.
On 23 November, Vladimir Zelezny sued Czech police investigator Vladimir Machala on the grounds of "inflicting harm" and demanded an apology, CTK reported. Zelezny, who is under investigation on suspicion of "attempting to harm a creditor," said he is also considering suing Investigation Office Director Miroslav Antl for having alleged that Zelezny might be behind attempts to intimidate Machala, who has received several threats to his life. Zelezny was detained earlier this month at Machala's request, but was later freed by a court order. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November)
LOCAL PRESS: VARIOUS VIEWS ON AMERICA.
The Tajik media gave space to critics of American foreign policy while condemning terrorist actions; A few reports from Mazar-i-Sharif were to be found. (cimera.org, October)WHY JOURNALISTS DO NOT TRAVEL TO AFGHANISTAN.
Most local journalists cannot afford the trip, and so the Tajik media mainly cover events in its southern neighbor from their offices. (chimera.org, October)
LAWMAKERS TO ASK COUNCIL OF EUROPE FOR HELP IN GONGADZE CASE.
The ad hoc parliamentary committee investigating the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze said on 27 November that it will appeal to the Council of Europe to help organize an international commission to probe the Gongadze case, Interfax reported. Committee head Oleksandr Zhyr said the international commission is necessary because the Ukrainian authorities, including President Leonid Kuchma, have thus far been uncooperative in the case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)WEBSITE CENSORED.
On 26 November, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted a search of the home of Oleh Yeltsov, editor of the website "Criminal Ukraine." They presented a court order for the search and informed Yeltsov that the search was authorized to "prevent the release of confidential information." After the search, Yeltsov's computer was disabled. Recently, Yeltsov's website had been running Ukrainian translations of items from "RFE/RL's Crime, Corruption and Terrorism Watch." (RFE/RL Ukrainian Service, 26 November)U.S. OFFERS $200,000 TO REGIONAL PRESS...
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual and U.S. Assistance Coordinator for Europe and Eurasia William Taylor have announced a $200,000 assistance program to help improve the Internet capacity of Ukrainian regional print media, AP reported on 28 November. The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine said in a statement that the program opens a nationwide competition for local nongovernmental newspapers and seeks up to 25 winners. The program will fund new Internet connections or upgrade existing information websites, as well as cover the cost of new equipment, training, and online charges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November)...AND WARNS OF SANCTIONS FOR FAILURE TO CURB CD PIRACY.
Pascual on 28 November said Ukraine will face U.S. trade sanctions if the parliament fails to approve legislation aimed at combating piracy of compact discs by mid-December. The parliament failed to pass such a law in mid-November and is currently considering a new bill that was hastily submitted by the government. RFE/RL Newsline, 29 November)RUSSIAN MEDIA CENTER OPENS.
A Russian media center -- founded by the Media Soyuz journalist organization, the Public Council of the Ukrainian-Russian Cooperation, the Internet newspaper ukraina.ru, and other organizations -- opened in Kyiv on 26 November, Inter television reported. "Our countries are present in each other. The problem of our past was that we could not find a form for this presence, or we proposed wrong forms. We have to find the right forms that would be convenient for us," ukraina.ru Project Director Gleb Pavlovskii said of the center's tasks. The center is headed by Inter television presenter Oleksandr Kolodiv. Media Soyuz President Aleksandr Lyubimov said Kolodiv was chosen because a Ukrainian journalist "will not be associated with Russian imperialism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)
JAILED POET TORTURED?
Uzbek poet Yusuf Dzhumaev, a member of the banned secular opposition movement Birlik ("Unity"), was arrested on 23 October. He has reportedly been tortured, while held in the basement of the National Security Service (SNB) detention facility in Bukhara. Father of six, Yusuf Dzhumaev was arrested by the SNB Bukhara regional branch; his home was searched, his poems and other material were reportedly confiscated. Apparently. the SNB informed the poet that he was being arrested due to his poetry appearing on a Muslim website officially deemed subversive. Dzhumaev is reportedly charged with "undermining Uzbekistan's constitutional order." Several local independent human rights groups believe that Dzhumaev was arrested for his public accusations of corruption of several officials in the Bukhara region. Local police reportedly warned him not to "dig into other people's affairs." (PEN Writers in Prison Press Release, 7 November)MOST MEDIA WAIT FOR OFFICIAL LINE ON 11 SEPTEMBER.
The vast majority of the Uzbek media waited for the official Tashkent reaction to 11 September, not even mentioning that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. (cimera.org, October)OBSTACLES TO CREATION OF INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS' ORGANIZATION.
Efforts to create an independent organization of journalists have so far been blocked. (cimera.org, October)
THE WEEK THAT WAS IN KAZAKHSTAN: CENSORSHIP, SOLIDARITY, AND SACKINGS
By Adam Albion
A week of political drama in Kazakhstan began with the resignation on 14 November of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law, 38-year-old Rakhat Aliyev, from his post as deputy chairman of the National Security Committee (NSC). Unfolding events offered tantalizing glimpses of a Byzantine power struggle going on between the government and opposition, between the center and the provinces, and within Nazarbaev's family itself.
On 10 October deputy of the Mazhlis (the Kazakh parliament's lower house) Tolen Toqtasynov publicly accused Aliyev of abuse of power for using the NSC to monitor the activities of opposition political parties, while he secretly owned or controlled the majority of the country's print and electronic media outlets -- among them Kazakh Commercial Television (KTK-TV) and the popular newspaper "Karavan" -- together with his wife, the president's eldest daughter, Dariga. Aliyev denied the allegations, which he claimed were politically motivated. He said the man ultimately behind the campaign against him was the 38-year-old governor of Pavlodar Oblast in northern Kazakhstan, Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov, for whom Toqtasynov was merely a front man. Zhaqiyanov controls media instruments of his own; both he and Aliyev have been using their outlets to criticize one another for a long time. Aliyev, who became deputy security chief in 1999, previously was a senior official of the Kazakh tax police.
On 14 November parliamentary deputies called on Aliyev to give an account of his activities and those of the NSC at a session of the Mazhlis. They also pressed NSC Chairman Marat Tazhin to make sure Aliyev turned up, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. But Tazhin, far from supporting the deputies' demands, ordered his subordinate not to appear before the Mazhlis. According to Kazakhstan Today news agency, Aliyev had said he was perfectly willing to appear before the deputies since he had nothing to hide. Forbidden to do so by his boss, however, Aliyev suddenly submitted his resignation to President Nazarbaev on 14 November. Furthermore, he said that he intended to sue Tazhin through his lawyers in the United States, RFE/RL's Kazakh bureau reported the following day.
Nazarbaev accepted his son-in-law's resignation on 15 November and promptly appointed in his place a 45-year-old ex-KGB official, Major General Nartai Dutbaev, who among other posts had run the NSC department in Pavlodar Oblast, Interfax-Kazakhstan said. Many observers were surprised to see the president apparently turn against a member of his own family, especially given the level of nepotism in state structures: Dariga runs the state news agency Khabar, while his other son-in-law, Timur Kulibaev, is head of one of the country's largest banks. To explain the timing of Nazarbaev's change of heart toward Aliyev, it may be significant that, according to some sources, Aliyev's marriage with Dariga is on the rocks. Moreover, Nazarbaev was later quoted as telling journalists that he had discovered that Aliyev simply had "too many enemies" and thus was a liability, RFE/RL reported on 17 November. Russian newspapers have been speculating for months that a battle to succeed Nazarbaev is underway among members of his family, with Aliyev and Dariga leading contenders and perhaps rivals. Head of the opposition Orleu movement Seydakhmet Quttyqadam offered another perspective on possible shifting political alliances when he pointed out that Aliyev belongs to the Middle Horde, while Nazarbaev belongs to the Great Horde. The three Kazakh Hordes (Great, Middle and Small) are a legacy of nomadic society that are thought to function like clan networks through which political patronage is channeled.
Meanwhile, Aliyev's whereabouts on the day his resignation was accepted were unknown, with rumors flying that he had been placed under house arrest. Significantly, Dariga did not step forward to defend him. But Aliyev's sister, Gulshat, who happened to be in Lebanon on 15 November, held a press conference in Beirut at which she said that his life was in danger and asked international democratic institutions to follow his case. In a nice twist, she said she was afraid her brother might be unlawfully persecuted, and that she would engage American lawyers to help defend his human rights, Kazakhstan Today reported.
Almost immediately after Aliyev tendered his resignation, KTK-TV, owned by the Alma-Media holding company that he had been accused of secretly controlling, shut down for two days and only showed a color test card. On 16 November, all copies of the weekly newspaper "Karavan," also a part of Alma-Media, were recalled from the distributors and the newspaper's operation was suspended. On the same day, the staffs of both the TV station and the newspaper issued a joint statement protesting the suppression of press freedom by Kazakh law-enforcement agencies, which the journalists described as "the practical introduction of censorship." In response, they announced that they had established an independent union called Solidarnost ("Solidarity"), in order to "protect press freedom and democratic principles," RFE/RL's Kazakh bureau reported. They further demanded that police stop tapping journalists' telephones and intercepting their mail, and that the government stop using trumped-up charges to shut down independent media.
The Ministry of Culture and Information responded that allegations of censorship and interference were untrue and represented "a deliberate attempt to misinform the public," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 17 November. The government had exerted no pressure on KTK-TV and the channel had suspended broadcasts of its own volition, the ministry said.
When KTK-TV returned to the air late on 16 November, it reported that the building of Kazakhstan TV Channel One, the Kazteleradio (Kazakh TV and radio) building, and the Kok-Tobe broadcasting tower in the city of Almaty were effectively being seized by the Interior Ministry, as the private security firms normally responsible for guarding them were in the process of being replaced by squads of police armed with assault rifles. These included special antiterrorist units from the NSC, the report said. Allegedly, the transfer had been mandated by a government decree of 10 November whereby strategic installations throughout the country should pass under state protection as security against terrorist threats. However, KTK-TV said, no one had actually seen the document and nobody at the Interior Ministry would tell journalists what it said. But Khabar TV reported on 16 November that Almaty's heating plant, water supply system, television tower, and telecommunications companies all fell under the rubric of strategic facilities and were being taken over by state guardsmen.
There had been earlier hints of tighter government controls with the detention on 14 November of Daniar Ashimbaev, a famous Kazakh journalist and one of the founders of the Moscow-based, Aziopa.ru Internet publication, which has criticized Nazarbaev's regime harshly. Ashimbaev himself is believed to be a supporter of Aliyev. The day that Aliyev resigned, Ashimbaev was arrested in Almaty for illegal drugs possession after 0.05 grams of heroin and six tablets of ecstasy were allegedly found on his person.
Aliyev resurfaced in public on 17 November, appearing on KTK-TV to issue a brief statement. First, however, Nazarbaev delivered a television address from his presidential office in which he said that Aliyev's decision to resign had been perfectly correct given the circumstances -- which he did not specify -- and announced that he had appointed him to be deputy head of the presidential guard service. He continued to say that he would always stand up for those media outlets "that obey the law" and wrapped up his address with an irrelevant promise to support small and medium-sized businesses. Aliyev then spoke to the cameras, complaining that he had been the victim of libelous accusations but insisting that he had proven his innocence in court and the slanderers had been punished. It was unclear what accusations and what decisions in his favor he was referring to.
The heat is not off Aliyev yet, though. Zhaqiyanov, the governor of Pavlodar Oblast, told TAN-TV on 16 November that Aliyev was responsible for a political crisis by trying to gather all Kazakhstan's power structures and media outlets into his hands, and said that national leaders still owed parliament an explanation of what was really going on in the country. Zhaqiyanov also seems to have provided the main impetus behind a new political movement called Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, whose formation was announced in Almaty on 18 November, Khabar TV and Interfax reported. Among the other seven founding members were such senior political figures as Deputy Prime Minister Oraz Dzhandosov, Deputy Defense Minister Zhannat Ertlesova, and Mazhlis Deputy Toqtasynov, who made the initial accusations against Aliyev in October. The group's platform is to initiate new reforms since, in its view, "democratic reforms in Kazakhstan have stopped." Deputy Finance Minister Kayrat Kelimbetov, who told Khabar TV on 19 November that he would be joining the movement, said more specifically that more power should be devolved to parliament and local legislative bodies from the executive, and that more regional officials should be elected rather than appointed.
At a press conference on 19 November, the managers of KTK-TV and "Karavan" revealed that for three months both media organs had been under strong pressure from unidentified financial and political interests to distort their coverage of certain public figures in Kazakhstan, Khabar TV reported. The TV and newspaper had suspended operations the previous week, the director of Alma-media said, in order to resist insistent demands and offers of bribes to smear local "famous people and politicians," which included "the president's family members." To help insulate them from such pressure in the future, the two media outlets were selling 20 percent of their shares to an American oil magnate, RFE/RL's Kazakh bureau reported on 20 November.
To cap off a politically memorable week in Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev appeared on KTK-TV on 20 November to deliver a long, rambling statement that began with a defense of the government's economic record but quickly turned into an attack on insidious forces who were trying to undermine the country from within, practicing "Internet terrorism," "pretending to be concerned about democracy," "aiming at redistributing property" -- and who were eventually identified as Pavlodar Governor Zhaqiyanov, Deputy Defense Minister Ertlesova, Labor Minister Alikhan Baymenov, and his own Deputy Prime Minister Dzhandosov, all of whom were important members of the newly founded Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan. Singling out Pavlodar Oblast for criticism of its poor economic record, Toqaev called on the president to impose discipline and order in the land with a strong hand and to sack immediately the four public figures he had named. Otherwise, threatened Toqaev, "I will resign myself." By way of impressing on his listeners the need for social order at a time of terrorist threat, and the kind of instability that could overtake the country without a firm leader at the helm, he said that Kazakh security organs had uncovered two assassination plots against Nazarbaev in the last three months alone. He offered no details or corroboration.
On the morning of 21 November, some of the leaders of Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan whom Toqaev had attacked arranged a meeting at the National Press Club in the Kazakh capital, Astana, to which they invited the prime minister to discuss or clarify his statement of the previous evening. Toqaev did not show up, at which point spokespeople for the new movement told journalists that they could no longer work in the government with him -- thus effectively forcing Nazarbaev to choose between him or them. He showed no hesitation in his preference, with the presidential press service's announcement a few hours later that Governor Zhaqiyanov, Deputy Defense Minister Ertlesova, and Deputy Prime Minister Dzhandosov had all been sacked.
Adam Albion is the editor of RFE/RL's Central Asia Report.