State Program Information Kazakhstan 2020

Law on Media: What amendments should journalists and people of Kazakhstan expect

In Kazakhstan, the draft law on information and communications which contains more than 200 amendments attracted extensive discussion.
Astana city09 November , 09:52

As for the media, amendments are proposed not to one but to 16 laws and codes, including on the media, on advertising, on broadcasting, on copyright and related rights, on personal data and their protection, and even in the Code of administrative offenses. It is planned that work on the draft law will last until the spring of 2018. And if the amendments are adopted in the proposed form, many things will be new not only for journalists, but also for ordinary Kazakhstanis. Read the review material of IA " about the amendments, which will be made in the new draft law".

The Ministry of Information and Communications of Kazakhstan proposes to amend several laws that will affect the interests of journalists and the media: The Law “On the Media”, the Law “On Television and Radio Broadcasting” and the Law “On Advertising”. Among the positive amendments, such as expanding the ability of journalists to obtain information, determining the status of press-services and press-secretaries and the mechanism of their interaction with journalists, the Ministry suggests very ambiguous amendments that already cause controversy in the Kazakhstani journalistic community.

As it is known, the Minister of Information and Communications of Kazakhstan Dauren Abayev explained the need for new norms of the draft law on the media, having made a video message on the Facebook page.

"It's no secret that the media literally hunt for news about famous people, singers, actors, athletes, etc. Often such news is formed on the basis of rumors and conjectures. This can concern their families, personal relationships and even health. This is not always true information, and can negatively affect reputation of the person. Even in the case of disinformation, achieving a refutation is very difficult. The only thing that remains like before, to address to court. But this is a month of nervous expectation. And not everyone is ready to defend their rights in court, especially for ordinary citizens, who can also become victims of a rumor", D.Abayev said.

Regarding to the advertisement on TV, the Minister noted that at present, according to the Law, the minimum share of broadcasting in the Kazakh language should be 50% of the airtime. He stressed the need for an amendment to the distribution of exclusively Kazakh TV and radio channels in state institutions. D. Abayev does not exclude that such a requirement will be presented to airports and railway stations in the future.

The Minister also focused on the amendments to expand the use of sign language translation and subtitling, to upgrade the status of structural units of the state bodies that work with the media (press-services and press-secretaries).

According to D. Abayev, every state body is now obliged to place on the website contact information of persons working with the media, who must report directly to the first leader. D.Abayev expressed confidence that all these amendments should positively affect the work of state bodies with the media.

Another useful innovation, which was underlined by the Minister, is that when publishing unreliable information in the media and reprinting it in other publications, only the source will now be responsible. The Minister also dwelt on the cases when, according to the amendments, the media cannot request permission to publish images of citizens when they are photographed during mass cultural and sports events, as well as at meetings, rallies, marches, demonstrations, etc. He also specified that the media can publish a photo without permission of a citizen when receiving official information regarding this person, together with a photo, and also when the image is used in the public interest.

Speaking about the latest amendments, the Minister told about the main directions and presented the final version of the draft law on the media in the Mazhilis.

Firstly, further formation of a qualitative legislative base for the development of the media. In order to reduce the administrative burden and ensure the proportionality of sanctions, the draft law plans to exclude such types of punishments as seizure of edition and suspension of media activities for minor violations.

At the same time, the list of reasons on which the media are exempt from responsibility for disseminating false information broadens.

Also, within the framework of further promotion of Kazakhstan content in state bodies and organizations, it is planned to provide exclusively domestic television channels.

The second direction concerned the interaction of Kazakhstanis with the media, which the Ministry wants to regularize. It is proposed to restrict the publication in the media of the image and any information that allows identifying the child who suffered as a result of illegal actions. It is also planned to change the procedure for pre-trial settlement of disputes that arose when publishing unreliable information.

"In this issue it is important to ensure equal competition of the sides. Also, the draft law takes into account the interests of our citizens with disabilities. A solution is proposed for the uniform distribution of advertising in the official language, as well as the definition of such concepts as a children's, religious, educational program", the Head of the Ministry noted.

The Minister also proposed to identify in each state body an authorized person or structure for interaction with the media with clearly defined functions.

"It is envisaged that these persons or structures will be subordinated directly to the first manager. Such mechanisms will make it possible to strengthen the role of acting press secretaries and press services", D.Abayev said.

The draft law also regulates in more detail the process of providing information to the media on their oral and written requests, indicating the time, form and order.

"The concept of "official communication" is expanding. If now such messages can be published only by state bodies, then the draft law proposes to include in their number state institutions, subjects of the quasi-public sector and legal entities that are recipients of budgetary funds", he added.

The norms in the new draft law proposed in a comprehensive manner are aimed at the implementation of the program "Digital Kazakhstan". There are also norms aimed at improving the processes of designing, creating and examining state information systems.

"It is planned to improve the quality of communication services by providing cellular operators with the right to share the allocated radio-frequency spectra. In order to simplify, it is proposed to change  the process of obtaining permission for the operation of radioelectronic facilities and high-frequency devices to a notification procedure", the Minister added.

The issue, which concerns the deadline for providing a response to an information request of a journalist was among particular for discussion. According to the document, state bodies have the right to respond to a journalistic request within 15 days. According to the current law, this period is three days. It is about information that is not part of the official message. The developers argue for the innovation that state bodies need time to prepare a response. Experts note that state administration authorities should first of all be interested in providing information as soon as possible, because this is an indicator of their competence. After all, any information loses its newness very quickly. In half a month, when the journalist finally gets it, it will be simply pretty old, not interesting for anyone - neither the media nor the population.

"In this regard, we used the general practice - up to 15 days, the practice takes up to 20 days or a month in the whole world. I think there is nothing terrible here. We discussed this issue in the working groups, and now it is on the conclusion in the Government. It is true the the law on the address of citizens, 15 days is also specified. Therefore, I think we are ready to consider and to discuss in detail in working groups the period of reduction up to 15 days", D.Abayev assured.

Also, the absence of a legal field for the activities of distributors of cards from TV satellite dishes was discussed.

"The issue relates to the information security of our country. Now about 600 thousand families use so-called "gray" satellite dishes. A memory card is used in so called “grey” dishes, and Kazakhstani TV channels are not protected", D. Abayev noted.

"It turns out that around 1.5 million people are outside the information field of Kazakhstan, or, to be more exact, do not watch Kazakhstani TV channels and many of them do not know what happens in the country", the Minister added.

At the same time, the Head of the Ministry noted that those who use satellites will continue to use them, but those who sell memory cards to them will be included in the legal framework.

"This issue is acute throughout Kazakhstan. People who use "gray" satellites, they will continue to use them, because we do not have any influence measures on consumers, but we bring people who distribute cards to the legal field. They really are outside the legal field of Kazakhstan. Money through electronic payments is withdrawn, according to our information, even to Cyprus", D. Abayev concluded.

In general, the draft law under discussion represents a whole range of amendments aimed at the development of three sectors of information, communication and information at once. The new draft law of the Ministry of Information and Communications of Kazakhstan obliges journalists to verify the authenticity of information before publication and to receive official comments. Journalists will not have the right to publish unverified news from the words of eyewitnesses who take some events on the phone. In addition, one of the articles of amendments proposed by the Ministry obliges journalists to take consent from a person or his legal representative for distribution in the media of personal, family, medical, commercial, banking and other secrets.

According to the Minister, the draft law will strengthen mechanisms to protect the rights of our citizens in the information sphere, make qualitative changes in the activities of the media, increase their ability to access information and ensure internal harmonization of national legislation, which will ensure a higher quality of its application.

We note that the draft law on information and communication was developed within the framework of the conceptual plan for lawmaking work for 2016-2021 and the plan for the drafting of Government's work for 2017. The document provides for the introduction of amendments and additions to 12 laws and four codes


Kairat Zhandybayev