Igor Kindop: Matayev’s trial will cause agiotage in the West

Kiel. July 22. KazTAG - The detention and arrest of chairman of the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan Seitkazy Matayev and his son Aset Matayev have caused a wide resonance in the foreign press. The deputies of the European Parliament, a number of international human rights advocates and journalist organizations have made statements in their defense. Igor Kindop, journalist working in a number of editorials of Kazakhstan and now studying in Germany, talks about the reasons for the pressure of state bodies on the media, control of the press through the placement of state orders and how the situation can be changed in the interview to German novastan.org portal.

- Igor, you have been working  as a journalist in Kazakhstan for a long period of time. Have you seen any situations, when the Government tried to put pressure on the media? Is there any control of  mass media in Kazakhstan and what is it like?

- From my experience and working as an editor in one Kazakhstani newspaper I have never experienced any strict Governmental pressure on the media. KazTAG must have had the same relations with the information committee or other state agencies, like the newspaper. I should note that I had no relation to the contracts of KazTAG and have no idea what kind of contracts they are. I suppose that they lay in the fact that within the framework of the tenders they had to publish this or that information, again provided by the information committee.
In those days it was a media tool support from the state, because the crisis that hit the entire economy of the country in 2007 and which is growing today, has seriously affected the advertising market. Many media sources have become unprofitable. And for the support of the media, including for control over their work and the impact on the media they have launched this mechanism of tenders. With this mechanism, the state gave money to support the information and the media (and I am sure that most of the media) tend to use this material tool, simply publishing certain materials in their newswire.

- Have you personally faced a problem when you wanted to write something, but you were not allowed to?

- Being a journalist of KazTAG in my experience I have never faced any restrictions: I have never been told  that's impossible to write about it, but it is possible. Although as I know, it is a commonplace in many editorials. For example, in 2009, as I remember, that time the Financial Supervision Agency decided to nationalize the "Alliance Bank" through the purchase of all shares for 100 tenge. The bank had a sufficient number of private shareholders. And then I got in tough with a minority shareholder, who was extremely unhappy with the situation. He and other minority shareholders sued the "Alliance Bank", the Fund "Samruk-Kazyna" and the Agency for Financial Supervision.
That time I was an employee of KazTAG, and nobody covered these events except for us and another newspaper . And I know why. The new management of "Alliance Bank", so to speak, asked the newspapers not to publish this information in exchange for advertising budget. Certainly there were attempts to do this with KazTAG, but I do not know about them. Nobody tried to ban coverage of the situation for me. And this example actually characterizes the work of the agency KazTAG - the most independent and the most centrist.

- Recently the charges in the address of the director general of KazTAG news agency and the chairman of the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan got much publicity. You spent a long time together with Seitkazy and Aset Matayev. Tell me why did they find themselves in such a situation?

- Seitkazy Matayev and his son Aset have always been centrist figures. From my experience I know that Seitkazy has always been an independent man in his work and in his judgments. And in this regard, and perhaps, due to some deep political process, he turned out to be a person pressure can be applied against. Because he's a well-known journalist, head of the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan and he is not controlled by any group in the elite. Perhaps this was the cause of pressure. But I can not say what the real reason is.
On the other hand, I was amazed about the reaction following detention and arrest of Matayev, especially abroad. My colleagues faced such reaction for the first time, there was no such reaction in connection with any subsequent land issue or the event in Aktobe, nor the alleged coup by the beer king (Tokhtar Tuleshov - KazTAG). The deputies of the European Parliament, the international human rights and journalist organizations support the journalist.
Therefore, the trial of the journalists again will cause agiotage. You know, in the West press is almost a sacred cow. It is not worth touching it, or moreover prosecuting it. The West is so constituted that it is ready to defend the freedom of speech, even in uninhabited Antarctic.
If we assume that the Government wants the country to be preserved with stable and clear situation and to avoid some kind of protests, it is absolutely not beneficial for the Kazakhstani authorities to prosecute S.Matayev. It can be costly to Kazakhstan in the image and respect, and in terms of attracting investments. No one will invest if there are problems with freedom of speech.
At the same time, we should note that S. Matayev has always been neutral with the authorities. However, he has openly expressed his opinion and considered protection of the press as his civil position. Of course, the authorities never liked it. After all, as it turns out - it is not wise to  blame S. Matayev directly in the professional field, so they decided to find some flaws in finance and taxes. It is common practice in the post-Soviet republics, but there are no such things in the European countries, particularly in Germany.
In fact, S. Matayev - is not only a prominent public figure, but also a  manager, able to work in the media. His site has been used by all the participants in the political process, so he has the weight of a person independent from the authorities. But I would not consider the current situation as the Government pressure on the media, and as far as I know, KazTAG does not consider this version. It is rather a matter of separate officials holding high positions in the hierarchy of power. They decided to use the administrative resource. Such things cannot happen with the European officials. If this becomes public, there is an immutable rule in the West -  resignation with following proceedings in court.

- It turns out that the mass media in Kazakhstan have actually no protection. One can accuse a journalist at any day?

- This case shows the vulnerability of Kazakhstani mass media and journalists. It turns out that it is possible to blame any owner or founder of media  for the fact that he posted information in restricted access or that he did not distribute newspapers for free after he won the state tender. But that is nonsense ?! This is an absolutely silly claim. On the other hand, the mass media in Kazakhstan do not particularly hinder the Government.  After all, most of them are loyal to the Government policy, including the information.

- Why don't they hinder?

- The main problem of Kazakhstani journalism - is a very small percentage of professionalism. Professional journalists are the foundation of good media and in Kazakhstan as soon as one becomes a professional journalist, he immediately goes to the press service or marketing field. So journalism in the country is losing staff. This situation is, in fact, very soft and does not have any pressure on the Government, because there is simply no one to put this pressure. There are very few dedicated journalists who want to tell the truth and only the  truth, and at the same time ready to earn little money.

- Yes, it is possible to understand when editors agree on  external funding of interested people, the management of a media think primarily about the financing of their own staff, if we take into account the size of the average salary of a journalist. But can  a usual reader distinguish whether the sold information is a phony or not? After all, if we compare with the German public, the editorial is primarily focused on the reader, and the reader acts as a judge. Can Kazakhstani reader see the difference?

- I think no. The readers so to say are not tempted. The reader simply does not have good quality journalism and analysis. Most often, people are fed with opinion under the pretence of expert. And so there is the manipulation of the media and readers by these alleged experts. An important aspect in this is the lack of professionalism in the Kazakh media, and readers are accustomed to this shortage. Although I should note that when  qualitative analysis appears, it immediately attracts attention of other market players and readers.

- Perhaps due to the historical past, readers simply do not know how to  distinguish  information and how to approach this issue critically?

- Of course, this is the place to be. We can not, unfortunately, observe a variance of opinion in the Kazakh media. But still I associate it with a lack of professionalism of journalists. Maybe it sounds like an insult, and some colleagues can get offended, but it's just a sort of an internal problem,  we are all accustomed to. On the other hand, not many people can correct it. Good media leaders understand that this is a problem, and it is hard to find a good journalist. This is due to the fact that there is a strong dispersion of opinions.
After all, how can you write an article? You can call specialists and experts, learn their opinion, study the deep sources, read scientific articles, books, understand the basics of the process, and you can read a few articles of your colleagues,  rewrite them,  combine and get another article. It is obvious what is easy to do. Exclusive information and analytical journalism must be valued. There is a fashionable word - content, independent meaningful content with authentic factual materials and clear logic, which other media do not have. It will always be valued both in Kazakhstan, and in Germany.
But due to the fact that not much is paid for an article, it is easier to combine it. The concepts of quality articles factually do not exist. A quality article and a combined article will be paid the same price. And it's a very big problem of our journalism, while the reader really stands out of the process.

- Will the Internet change the situation?

- If a person aims to obtain information, the Internet, of course, is a strong source and allows you to get the right and perhaps qualitative information. On the other hand, is a reader really interested in quality information? However, despite the huge presence of content in Russian, for example, the Russian media, of course, take lead in the quality and access to content. Examples are, of course, the prevailing opinion on any Russian specific topics among the Kazakhstani population. Will the public go to read the Kazakh media? I doubt it.
Also, we should remember that in Kazakhstan, many people prefer the Russian sites, and thus do not receive the information from Kazakhstan. I would like to see high-quality mass media of Kazakhstan in the Russian and Kazakh languages. I have hope that the Internet can make a difference. In this aspect development of Kazakh Internet, appearance of highly qualified Kazakh experts would improve something. Of course, time is needed for this ...