Staunton, December 2 – Since Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991, many Kazakhs have expressed concern about the impact of Russian television broadcasting on the national audience there. But because of the way in which Russian TV has been covering Ukrainian events has, Kazakh fears and proposals for restrictions have multiplied in recent months.
In the 1990s, many Kazakhstan officials and commentators regularly suggested that Russian television was having too great an impact on the views of Kazakhstanis, and in 2004, the legislature banned the direct rebroadcasting of foreign television over the airwaves. But the rise of cable and Internet TV undercut the impact of that law.
And for most of the past decade, Kazakhstan officials ceased to listen to calls for restrictions on Russian television, having concluded that there was little they could do under the circumstances (dw.de/российские-телеканалы-в-казахстане-нужно-ли-ограничить-влияние/a-18104124 and szona.org/rossijskaya-propaganda-bespokoet-kazahstan/).
But the situation has changed radically over the last year largely because of the tendentious way in which the Moscow channels have covered Ukraine to the exclusion of almost everything else and because of concerns that what the Russian outlets are saying about Kyiv could have a direct impact on the future of Astana.
One Kazakh politician, Amirzhan Kosanov says that “literally every day, Kazakhstan residents see on Russian television a one-sided and tendentious treatment of events in Ukraine. And naturally, this cannot but generate dissatisfaction among Kazakhstantsy because they encounter a different point of view in other media.”
As a result, he says, “voices calling for a ban on broadcasting of Russian television on the territory of Kazakhstan” are again being heard.
Erlan Askarbekov, a specialist on public relations technologies, says that in his opinion, the information security of Kazakhstan requires that “the retranslation of Russian state channels which show news and talk shows of a political character” be introduced by Astana “as quickly as possible.”
That “extraordinary measure,” he continues, should be kept in place “at a minimum for about three years,” and it must affect “all re-broadcasters” of Russian television “without exception.” Some Kazakhstan broadcasters have suggested that the government require that Russian channels be available only on premium cable programs, thus limiting their reach.
But some in Kazakhstan oppose the idea of limiting Russian television broadcasts in Kazakhstan. Despite his concerns, Kosanov is one of them. He says that prohibitions alone won’t work and calls for the lifting of censorship in Kazakhstan so that more people will watch what would be more interesting Kazakhstan programming.
And Farid Batyrbayev, the country’s minister for economic integration, also opposes the imposition of restrictions on Russian television. Moscow TV is not “zombifying” Kazakhs, he says. If that were the case, “the people would already not be the people.” Each viewer must “be able to draw his own conclusions.”
For Kazakhstan, he continues, “there is nothing bad” about the fact that many Kazakhs and other residents of Kazakhstan watch Russian television. But he acknowledges there is a real problem: “Russian television is devoting too much attention to the situation in Ukraine,” and that makes many in Kazakhstan “nervous.”