With Kazakhstan in the economic doldrums, the government is asking the “independent” media to don their rose-colored specs.
“At a time when measures to improve the economic situation are being carried out, the media is recommended to adhere to the following structure for publishing material,” says a statement sent to Kazakhstan’s private media outlets by the authoritarian government's Committee for Communications, IT, and Information and re-published by the Adil Soz media freedom watchdog on February 12.
A list of detailed “recommendations” follows, containing information on what the non-state media should publish, right down to the content, the frequency, and the thrust of the reporting.
The recommendations include publishing “material on every briefing as they are held (1-2 reports in the ‘Main News’ section)”; expert comments on the “correct measures [being taken by the government] and Kazakhstan’s margin of safety that will allow it to withstand a crisis”; and “infographics about Kazakhstan’s margin of safety and achievements in the years of independence (no less than once a month).”
Private media are also recommended to base their reporting on “official statements by competent state bodies,” and they should publish material “on negative social phenomena in foreign countries owing to the global economic situation (daily).”
With Kazakhstan facing its worst economic outlook for six years owing to a slump in oil prices and a regional slowdown emanating from sanctions-hit Russia, President Nursultan Nazarbayev this week ordered spending cuts of some $3.8 billion (or 10 percent of the previously planned budget expenditure for this year)—even while insisting Kazakhstan is not in an economic crisis.
To counter all this economic doom and gloom, the private media has also been “recommended” to report on events that will promote a feel-good mood: from this year’s celebrations of 550 years of Kazakh statehood and the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, to plans for Astana to host the EXPO 2017 international exhibition in two year’s time.
According to research published in late 2013, the government already directs state media subsidies to produce positive spin, but issuing detailed “recommendations” to the private media – which, unlike state media, are supposed to be independent of government interference – marks a new departure in micromanaging the message.