Deputies Criticized Draft Law on Mass Media, But Adopted It in First Reading

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Kazakhstan's parliament adopted the draft law on mass media in the first reading. It will change journalists’ work in Kazakhstan and is a cause for reasonable concern.

The bill amends the law "On Communications" regarding the transmission of radio frequencies among state organizations without a competition.

Amendments and additions have been made to the Criminal, Business Codes and 12 laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Working Group considered about 50 amendments.

You can read about them in depth here.

The authorities plan to set a statute of limitations for filing claims for the publication of refutations. Now the draft law provides for a limitation period of three years, but journalists want to reduce it to one year. There currently is no limitation.

For a more effective implementation of the state information policy, the transition to grant funding will be carried out within the framework of the draft law. Grant funding will be mainly focused on the creative component of the project. To automate the accreditation processes, the draft law proposes the introduction of press cards. In general, each of the above innovations is based on thorough analysis and work,  said Minister of Culture and Information, Aida Balayeva.

Officials have proposed introducing special press cards to simplify accreditation. But not all journalists will be able to get them according to the norms proposed in the bills. The Minister of Culture and Information of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Aida Balayeva, has promised to discuss the press cards with the professional community again.

This norm does not restrict or violate the rights of journalists in any way. In the Ministry's work plan for 2024, in order to cover all issues, we have drawn up a media plan, which includes events providing for consideration of this issue. Also records for media registration, as well as issues of accreditation, its automation. This issue will be thoroughly studied before the second reading. We are not going to implement (it -Ed.) flat out. It will also be discussed and the opinion of journalists will be taken into account, Aida Balayeva said.

It is proposed to reduce the response time to official media inquiries from seven working days to five. Government agencies will also have to refute incorrect information that they have posted on their websites and in social networks instead of editing it.

Deputies have expressed opposition to the press cards.

Last week, members of the public chamber of the Majilis were in Almaty, where they held a special visiting session (...) Representatives of the media community openly declare their dissatisfaction with the press card. According to journalists, the adoption of the norm can lead to journalists’ division and depriving (of information - Ed.), cause inequality and limit their rights. We deputies of the Amanat are against such a norm. We believe that it is impossible to restrict rights, we express concern, said Deputy Aidos Sarym.

The Legal Media Center has already responded to the draft law and proposed their own versions of the amendments.

We are against press cards, the Commission on the issuance of press cards and the simplified accreditation procedure, the national report on the observance of the rights and freedoms of journalists, the definition of "mass media", the creation of an ethics council and the partial decriminalization of the first part of Article 158 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (obstruction), the Legal Media Center said in a statement.

The proposals of the working group participants from the media community include new articles related to the legal guarantee of journalists, improvement of the accreditation procedure, transparency and accountability of the state order, the concept of "public person" and "public interest", additional administrative responsibility for violating the legitimate rights of journalists, taking photos in public places.

Experts also propose to include in the competence of the Ministry the duty to respond to violations of journalists and media representatives' professional rights and oblige the media to label a state order.

Deputy Rinat Zaitov, on the other hand, did not like that the Ministry of Information does not monitor children's television programs. Some of them, according to Zaitov, "talk about gender reassignment operations."

You know, we have such programs and different types of talk shows, not quite acceptable, on gender reassignment and so on. Why do we have to watch this on TV? And we proposed to do monitoring and, of course, make changes to the legislation. Is there any other mechanism for monitoring, banning such programs? the deputy asked.

Balayeva replied that the state does not finance such TV programs, but the agency is ready to consider this issue.

Deputy Ponomarev also criticized the point about press cards and proposed providing life insurance for journalists working in combat zones. He noted that the AMANAT faction opposes the amendments on press cards. The faction supported another norm - subsidizing regional publications.

Original Author: Ilya Astakhov

DISCLAIMER: This is a translated piece. The text has been modified, the content is the same. Please refer to the original piece in Russian for accuracy.

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