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Press-release of Internews-Kazakhstan of June 6, 2002

On May 24, 2002 Almaty municipal court (court of first instance) rendered a decision on the lawsuit of Rakhat Aliyev against the representative office of the International organization “Internews Network” in Kazakhstan on protection of honor and dignity.

International observers (OSCE center in Almaty, USAID, International foundation for protection of freedom of speech “Adil soz”, independent experts and etc.) evaluated conduct of the legal procedure as “biased”. This could be seen from the behavior of the opposite party and the judge of Almaty municipal court U. Yesbergenov. Throughout the entire trial he virtually ignored all petitions and statements of “Internews Kazakhstan”, which cannot be said about petitions and statements of the plaintiff.

Rakhat Aliyev, former deputy chairman of the Committee of National Security of the Republic of Kazakhstan, former deputy head of the security service of the President of the republic, now president of the National Olympic Committee (NOK), on December 5, 2001 submitted statement of claim to Almalinsky district court of Almaty city on protection of honor and dignity and compensation of moral damage at the amount of 20 million tenge (which is approximately 140-150 thousand US dollars) for the article “Khabarization of the entire country”, which was placed on the web-site of “Internews Kazakhstan” in August-September 2001 (electronic newsletter “Internews Network - Kazakhstan” # 23 (117) of 08/20-09/20/2001).

Since the Representative office of “Internews Network” in Kazakhstan is an international organization, and according to the legislation, civil cases, where one of the parties is an international or foreign organization, are to be examined by regional (and equal to them courts) as courts of first instance. The case was transferred to the municipal court of Almaty.

Initially the statement of claim contained four demands. Later the plaintiff withdrew demands, associated with compensation for moral damage. The remaining points are as follows: acknowledgement of data as invalid and publication of refutation.

Mr. Aliyev considered the following data untrue, discrediting his honor and dignity in the public opinion:

“D. Nazarbayeva and her husband - first deputy head of the Committee of National Security of the Republic of Kazakhstan Rakhat Aliyev, own or control (directly or indirectly) several television and radio networks, informally unified into a media holding (television channels Khabar, KTK, NTK, “ORT-Kazakhstan”, radio station “Yevropa plus Kazakhstan”, “Hit FM Khabar”, “Russkoye radio”, “Radio Retro-Karavan; newspapers “Novoye pokoleniye”, “Karavan”, “Karavan” publishing house, information agency “Kazakhstan today”, advertising agency “TV-Media and etc.).

Telecommunication Company KATELKO is in the same row, “Kazakhstan’s broadcasting corporation. In winter of 2000 by the decree of the government two organizations, who controlled television and radio transmitting means (transmitters, television towers, television centers and etc.), were reorganized and rights of property and use over the state package of stocks of the newly-fledged organization were handed over to “KVK - Kazakhstan’s Broadcasting Corporation”, founder of which is a group of legal and physical entities. Experts ask themselves a question: who would benefit from privatization of state property?” (Cited as in the statement of claim).

However, as early as in the statement of claim in the beginning of the first paragraph an entire sentence was missed: “Mass media experts say that today all large mass media of Kazakhstan actually passed into the ownership of members of the family of the president of the country, or private individuals, close to presidential circles”

The second paragraph was stated in the following way: “Telecommunication Company KATELKO is in the same row, “Kazakhstan’s broadcasting corporation” (in winter of 2000 by the decree of the government two organizations, who controlled television and radio transmitting means (transmitters, television towers, television centers and etc.), were reorganized and rights of property and use over the state package of stocks of the newly-fledged organization were handed over to “KVK - Kazakhstan’s Broadcasting Corporation”, founder of which is a group of legal and physical entities. Experts ask themselves a question: who would benefit from privatization of state property?”.

“Internews Kazakhstan” presented a petition on conduction of literature and linguistic examinations, but was refused in their conduction. The court satisfied petition of the plaintiff (R. Aliyev) on conduction of judicial psychological philological examination, which was executed by Central (Almaty) scientific-production laboratory of judicial examination in March 2002. The examination was executed with numerous violations - so, shift of some words in a sentence took place, which inevitably distorted the text and allowed the experts to draw incorrect, in our opinion, conclusion, that the article contains data “giving negative evaluation to the plaintiff”.

On May 30 we received results of the independent examination (expert conclusion #28/5), which was conducted by the Guild of linguistic experts on documentation and informational disputes (Moscow, Russia). The following is the expert conclusion: the publication does not contain insulting vocabulary, statements, containing negative evaluation of R. Aliyev’s personality, the author used opinions and judgments, formulated by other journalists or persons of informational and political activity, the text was written in the genre of critical article, essential characteristics of which include presence of opinions on various important issues (express one’s thoughts about these issues, raise them, provoke interest of the public to them - is the professional task of the journalism).

According to the article 26 of the law of the Republic of Kazakhstan of June 23 1999 “On mass media”, chief editor (editor), as well as a journalist do not bear responsibility for dissemination in mass media of untrue data:

1. in case these data were contained in official report and documents;

2. in case these data were received from information agencies;

3. in case they literal reproduction of official speeches of deputies of representative bodies, official individuals of state bodies, organizations and citizens”.

Fragment of the text cited in the statement of claim is not personal statement of the journalist or editor, but virtually reproduce literary information, published in the official document - Report of the State Department of the USA on practice in the sphere of human rights for 1999, and data, contained in materials, placed on other web-sites and in print editions, as well as data, contained in speeches of organizations and citizens. Analogous information in various forms is also contained in number of publications on web sites and in print mass media (including, the web site of Caspian information agency).

However, Almaty municipal court did not consider the report of the State department of the USA on practice in the sphere of human rights for 1999, annual report of non-governmental organization “Committee to protect journalists” as official reports and official documents, did not take into consideration references to other sources and having referred to the results of the examination, which are being disputed by the defendant (“Internews”), on May 24 rendered a decision: to acknowledge data, disseminated by the newsletter “Internews Kazakhstan”, untrue and publish refutation.

Today “Internews Kazakhstan” submitted appellate appeal to the Board on civil cases of the Supreme court of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

“Internews Kazakhstan” believes that only normal civilized discussion of problems of the society and mass media will allow finding rational ways of their solution. In addition, if there is mass media monopoly in Kazakhstan, if experts discuss this problem, than no bans, lawsuits and threats can make people keep silence.

We evaluate this lawsuit as pressure on international public organization, working, among others, on support projects to the Republic of Kazakhstan. This lawsuit disputes the right of international public organizations for personal evaluation of situation in Kazakhstan, right for personal opinion of experts, writing about Kazakhstan, right for referring to specialists’ opinions and comments.

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