Controlling the media

TOTALITARIAN regimes always fear the media for its duty to tell the truth and expose wrong-doings. Now, the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed a new legislation that tightens controls on the already controlled media, despite criticism from the US and Europe.

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Published: Fri 7 Jul 2006, 11:43 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:09 PM

Earlier in 2004, the President had withheld similar legislation after the West criticised the move. So, what compelled him to sign a controversial legislation now? Kazakhstan’s upper house had passed the new media legislation last week despite criticism that the changes represented a setback to Press freedom in the Central Asian state.

The new amendments put reporters under tighter state control and make the mandatory registration for news outlets harder. The legislation has been widely criticised, saying it would harm freedom of expression in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan, sandwiched between Russia, China, and the Caspian Sea is a large oil producer, and that could be one reason why the West is interested in the country. Kazakh media is already under strong pressure from the state, and the market is dominated by newspapers and television stations that rarely criticise Nazarbayev.

Not surprisingly, the government has defended the amendments, saying they would “safeguard the public’s trust in the media.” Quite too often, it is assumed by authoritarian systems that control of the media would hide things and make everyone happy. But you cannot wish away something by brushing it under the carpet. The media has to be accorded its prominent role and allowed to do its duty so that it can project a true picture, and public opinion is respected. Democracies have nothing to fear from the media, and controlling the media will not bring greater powers to those who rule. The media must be allowed to function effectively.



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