5 august 2020

Central Asia news

Who owns media in Kazakhstan?

In Kazakhstan, most of the media owners are hiding behind their formal founders. But, as they say, if the secret is known to three – then everyone knows this. Having talked with experts Fergana News Agency made its own list of the true owners of the Kazakh media.

Over 2,000 mass media have been officially registered in Kazakhstan, but in fact the vast majority of them are ordinary extras. Not having sufficient funding and having a weak material base, and often located in regional centres these publications rarely have their own content and newsline, and therefore do not have any influence on the formation of public opinion in the country as a whole.

The information and analytical field of Kazakhstan is almost completely reigned by the media with the Astana, less often with the Alma-Ata registration, which are controlled by various groups of influence from the immediate environment of, as the Kazakh media experts say ‘you-know-who.’

There are only about a hundred of such editions, and in most cases they have no problems with financing, have far from the worst technical equipment, and have an extensive network of correspondent offices throughout the country. At the same time, all of them must strictly observe one important rule. Since in Kazakhstan media are considered primarily as a means of influencing decisions made by the country's top leadership, these publications are obliged to fully coordinate their information policy with the interests of influence groups patronising them.

Accordingly, knowing who actually owns a particular Kazakh mass media (in practice only the formal founder is indicated), it is possible to easily determine who ‘ordered’ whom to write a critical article about on the pages of an internet publication or on air of some TV channel.

Media Empire of Dariga Nazarbayeva

Dariga Nazarbayeva
According to Fergana experts, who did not want to publicise their names - for their own safety, Kazakhstan's largest media magnate for the past 20 years has been the oldest daughter of President Nazarbayev – Dariga, who currently holds the post of Chair of the Standing Committee on International Relations, Defence, and Security of the Senate of Parliament.

Despite the fact that a news message flashed in 2008 that she had sold her shares of the Khabar news agency to the ‘Samgau’ state holding of information technologies for $100 million, which includes the nationwide broadcasting Khabar, 24.kz , ‘El Arna’, and Kazakh-TV channels, experts do not doubt that Dariga Nazarbaeva still controls their activities.

It is believed that in addition to the television channels of the Khabar agency the media empire of Dariga Nazarbayeva includes the following media:

‘KTK’ TV channel (full control)

‘NTK’ TV channel (full control)

‘First Channel – Eurasia’ (partial control, jointly with the ‘Kazakhstan’ state television and radio corporation)

‘ON-TV’ (full control, it was bought from Arman Baytasov in 2016, a dollar millionaire who joined the group of Dariga Nazarbayeva's influence)

‘MuzzON’ TV channel (full control in connection with Arman Baytasov joining the group)

‘HIT-TV’ channel (full control - included in the ‘Shahar’ group of the elder son of Dariga Nazarbayeva Nurali Aliev)

‘Alma-TV’ cable television (full control)

‘ICON’ cable television (full control since March 2017 due to Arman Baytasov joining the group)

‘Europa Plus Kazakhstan’ radio station (full control)

‘Hit-FM-Kazakhstan’ radio station (full control)

Arman Baytasov
‘Russkoye Radio Azia’ radio (full control)

‘Classic FM’ radio station (full control)

‘Retro FM’ radio station (full control)

‘Energy FM’ radio station (full control - is included in the group ‘Shahar’ of the elder son of Dariga Nazarbayeva Nurali Aliev)

The ‘Karavan’ newspaper (full control)

The ‘Novoe Pokolenie’ (New Generation) newspaper (partial control, jointly with the dollar millionaire Rashid Sarsenov)

The ‘Moskovsky Komsomolets in Kazakhstan’ newspaper (partial control jointly with the dollar millionaire Rashid Sarsenov)

The Forbes-Kazakhstan magazine (full control in connection with Arman Baytasov joining the group of influence of Dariga Nazarbayeva)

‘Forbes.kz’ internet edition (different content from the magazine, full control in connection with Arman Baytasov joining the group of influence of Dariga Nazarbayeva)

‘365info.kz’ internet edition (full control)

‘Caravan.kz’ media portal (full control)

‘Zakon.kz’ internet portal (full control)

‘Nur.kz’ internet aggregator (partial control, according to unconfirmed reports together with Russian Mail.Ru Group of Alisher Usmanov)

Media of the influence group of Timur Kulibayev

Timur Kulibayev
It is obvious that against the background of the media empire of Dariga Nazarbayeva the media assets of the husband of her own sister Dinara - the Chair of the presidium of the ‘Atameken’ Kazakhstan Chamber of Entrepreneurs Timur Kulibayev - look somewhat more modest.

However, Fergana experts say these assets exert no less influence both on the formation of public opinion and on political and economic decisions taken by the country's leadership. By the way, attention is drawn to the fact that like Dariga Nazarbaeva Timur Kulibayev does not publicly show his involvement in full control over the following Kazakh media resources:

‘Atameken’ Business Channel

The Central Asia Monitor newspaper

The ‘Capital’ newspaper

The ‘Kursiv’ newspaper

The ‘Zhas Alash’ newspaper

The ‘Komsomolskaya Pravda Kazakhstan’ newspaper

‘Dialog.kz’ internet edition

‘Sports.kz’ internet edition

‘Contur.kz’ internet edition

‘Abai.kz’ internet portal

‘Better.kz’ internet edition

‘Spik.kz’ internet edition

‘Bnews.kz’ informational and analytical portal

‘Today.kz’ news agency

‘Kaztag.kz’ news agency

Editions of the former prime minister

Karim Masimov
Fergana experts call the former prime minister and now the chair of the most powerful security structure in Kazakhstan - the Committee for National Security - Karim Masimov ‘a serious player’ in the information space of Kazakhstan. If we believe the words of our company, Karim Masimov unlike his competitors started creating his own media structures relatively recently - just seven years ago. At the same time he did not use the services of Russians or Ukrainians to organise the activities of this media, which is traditional for Kazakhstan, but invited specialists from Western Europe for this purpose, from Germany in particular.

This unusual for Kazakhstan step very soon brought its fruits. Literally a year later, media resources controlled by Karim Masimov, incidentally not without the help of one of Kazakhstan's richest millionaire Alexander Klebanov, were among the most popular mass media in the country. Fergana experts believe, the rapidly developing ‘media kingdom’ of the head of the most powerful special service of the Republic of Kazakhstan includes the following mass media at the moment:

STV TV channel

‘Channel 7’ television (together with Kenes Rakishev - the son-in-law of Kazakhstan's Ambassador to Russia Imangali Tasmagambetov)

‘Tengri-FM’ radio station

‘Zhuldyz-FM’ radio

‘Tengri-TV’ internet TV channel

The ‘Alash Ainasy’ newspaper

‘Vesti.kz’ internet sports edition

‘Tengrinews.kz’ informational and analytical portal

Press of the dollar billionaire

Bulat Utemuratov
Meanwhile in Kazakhstan, there is an official dollar billionaire who never concealed the existence of his own media. We are talking about the former chief administrator of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Bulat Utemuratov, who considered the most liberal of people who have been in the closest circle of Nursultan Nazarbayev for many years.

This very liberalism (as far as it is possible in Kazakhstan) affects the activities of the mass media Mr Utemuratov. According to the observations of Fergana experts, he practically does not interfere with the work of the editions that belong to him, who having a relatively small list of names that are forbidden to mention publish materials that are sharp enough for Kazakhstan in their publications.

Moreover, our experts noted that openly one of the richest people of the Republic of Kazakhstan officially owns the shares of a number of opposition editions thereby allowing them to stay afloat - provided that these media will not criticise both himself and President Nazarbayev according to unconfirmed reports. The mass media from Bulat Utemuratov's pool include:

‘Channel 31’ TV company (partial control, jointly with Russian ‘STS-Media’ and ‘UTV Holding’ media holdings)

‘Love Radio - Kazakhstan’ radio station

The ‘Informbureau-Megapolis’ newspaper

The ‘Obshestvennaya Pozitsia (Public position) – DAT’ newspaper (indirect control through the presence of a share)

‘Informburo.kz’ informational and analytical portal

‘Voxpopuli.kz’ internet edition

Directly and Indirectly

Fergana experts noted that there are actually several financial and industrial groups in Kazakhstan that directly or indirectly own different editions. Among them:

Eurasian Resources Group of billionaires Alexander Mashkevich, Patokh Chodiev, and Alijan Ibragimov openly controlling the edition of the popular ‘Express-K’ newspaper;

The influence group of the ex-chief of the president’s office and now the chair of the lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament Nurlan Nigmatulin, who according to Fergana experts relates to the Karaganda-based ‘Novoe Televidenie’ TV channel, which broadcasts all over the republic, and the analytical ‘Ratel.kz’ and ‘Vlast.kz’ internet editions, as well as to the ‘Zhas Alash’ newspaper;

The influence group of the current head of the president’s office Adilbek Jaksybekov, which the experts believe hardly lost control of the ‘Astana’ TV channel, ‘Astana FM’ and ‘Orda FM’ radio stations, which became part of the media holding of the presidential ‘Nur Otan’ party, and other state structures.

Under the flag of the state

In conclusion, Fergana experts drew attention to the existence in the country both fully and largely controlled by the president’s office of Kazakhstan state and semi-state media, which receive virtually unlimited funding including from the state budget. Among them are:

‘Kazakhstan’ TV company with all its branches in the regional centres of the country

‘Otau-TV’ satellite TV

‘Shalkar’ radio

‘Kazakh Radio’ station

‘NS’ radio station (part of the ‘Nur-Media’ holding of the presidential ‘Nur Otan’ party)

The ‘Vremya’ newspaper (together with the ‘KAZ Minerals’ copper mining corporation)

The ‘Aikyn’ newspaper (part of the ‘Nur-Media’ holding of the presidential ‘Nur Otan’ party)

The ‘Liter’ newspaper (part of the ‘Nur-Media’ holding of the presidential ‘Nur Otan’ party)

The ‘Turkestan’ newspaper (part of the ‘Nur-Media’ holding of the presidential ‘Nur Otan’ party)

The ‘Baiterek’ magazine

‘Kazinform’ information agency

As for the few independent publications created and existing due to the efforts of their editorial staff, then according to the Fergana experts, they do not have any serious influence on the formation of public opinion. This is firstly due to the strict legislative restrictions in the field of the media, and secondly, due to the acute shortage of funds in order to cover the population of the vast territory of Kazakhstan.

For less than twenty four hours after the publication 14 thousand people read the article only on the Russian version of the ‘Fergana’ Facebook page. Thanks to the author of the article who did a good job identifying media relations with the authorities, interest in the topic turned out to be very sharp and conflicting.

On the other hand, we are aware that there may be inaccuracies in our review. After all, it is very difficult to answer the question of who owns this or that mass media in authoritarian and closed countries.

Fergana News Agency