to hide behind confidentiality or ignorance of the law.  By Yaroslava Naumenko

deployment include politicians and others with their own agendas.  By Timur 

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Officials will find it harder to hide behind confidentiality or ignorance of 
the law.

By Yaroslava Naumenko

New legislation under discussion in Kazakstan could make it easier for members 
of the public to access information held by government and make the system more 

Public hearings on the public information bill took place throughout August in 
various regions of Kazakstan. A conference at the end of September will 
summarise the recommendations collected, and submit them to the Ministry of 
Communications and Information as input to the bill. A finalised draft should 
go before parliament next year.

The driving force behind the information bill, as well as the innovative idea 
of asking members of the public what they thought about it, was the United 
Nations Development Programme, UNDP, office in Kazakstan. Locally-based media 
development and civil society groups including IWPR were closely involved in 
discussions that shaped the initial draft.

The need for such a bill is recognised by central government as well as NGOs. 
In an address to the nation earlier this year, President Nursultan Nazarbaev 
called for public bodies to be made more transparent and accountable.

The various institutions of state in Kazakstan typically shy away from 
discussing their work openly and responding to questions about their 
accountability. Faced with what seems like a brick wall, the average citizen is 
reluctant to fight for access to information that should be freely available.

Recommendations for the legislation are likely to include reducing the deadline 
by which government agencies are required to produce information, setting out a 
clear definition of confidentiality so that material cannot be withheld on 
spurious grounds, and ensuring that requests for information made verbally are 
recorded and tracked just like written submissions.

In addition, other laws will need to be changed if they go against the 
principles of transparency or basic rights set out in the Kazak constitution. 
At the moment, officials are able to cite various pieces of legislation that 
obstruct the right to information.

Gulmira Kujukeeva, a lawyer with the media development organisation 
Internews-Kazakstan, told IWPR there was currently no single legal text 
covering all aspects of access to information, but instead a multiplicity of 
laws, decrees and directives.

“Access to information has always been an acute problem for citizens in general 
and journalists in particular,” Kujukeeva said.

When officials were asked to provide information, she said, they might refuse 
outright to do so, offer only an incomplete response, argue that the 
information was confidential or simply not available, or plead that they lacked 
the authority and mandate to reply to the request.

This created an atmosphere in which ordinary people felt powerless to do 
anything, she said. Those who did challenge refusals might have to wait months 
with no guarantee of success. Only two out of ten legal challenges launched by 
journalists in recent years had been upheld, for example.

Almaty-based lawyer Igor Loskutov said confidentiality was often misused as a 
reason for withholding information.

“For example, it’s impossible to get hold of a presidential decree concerning 
the acquisition or loss of [Kazakstan] citizenship,” he said, noting that there 
was nothing secret about documents of this kind.

Loskutov argued that the information law could prove a powerful tool for 
stimulating greater public scrutiny of the use of public money – as long as 
steps were taken to ensure the legislation was followed, and punish offending 

Commentators agree that Kazakstan cannot afford to fall behind the global trend 
for greater demand for freedom of information, coupled with the technological 
advances that make that possible.

As Kujyukeeva pointed out, “Even if journalists are forbidden to carry certain 
information in the newspapers or on TV and radio, anyone who wants to read such 
material can do so from alternative sources including the internet.”

Aliya Duganova, manager of the UNDP project that helped shape the bill and the 
accompanying consultations, said the general principle nowadays was that people 
should have the right to obtain and disseminate public-domain information 
without having to explain why they needed it.

In sum, she said, “I believe approval of this bill will increase the amount of 
information reaching people through print media and the internet. The new law 
will have an effect on public awareness, on access to information, and on the 
human rights situation in Kazakstan generally”.

Yaroslava Naumenko is an IWPR-trained journalist in Kazakstan.

This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central 
Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the 
European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and 
Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no 
way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign 
Ministry of Norway.


Opponents of OSCE police deployment include politicians and others with their 
own agendas.

By Timur Toktonaliev 

Plans to deploy an international police force in southern Kyrgyzstan in the 
wake of June’s ethnic violence has caused an outcry from those who see the move 
as a green light for foreign interference. Many analysts believe the furore is 
more a reflection of political strife.

Member states of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, 
voted unanimously on July 22 to send a 52-strong Police Advisory Group, PAG, to 
Kyrgyzstan. Actual deployment requires a final decision from the Kyrgyz 
government, expected by the end of August, after which the that PAG will set up 
headquarters in Osh. The deployment will last four months and can be extended 
only if Kyrgyzstan’s leaders ask for this.

The OSCE decision followed a request for assistance from the authorities in 
Kyrgyzstan, following days of clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in and 
around the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad in June. The latest official 
figures indicated that 355 people died in the violence. Numerous homes, shops 
and official buildings were wrecked in looting and arson attacks.

The PAG will monitor operations by Kyrgyzstan’s police and advise them on ways 
to restore order and reduce ethnic tensions. Six teams of seven police 
officers, a local community mediator and interpreters will accompany local 
police on patrol. The force will be drawn from police in Russia, the United 
States, Bulgaria, Turkey, Lithuania and Finland.

“As a neutral party on the ground, the Police Advisory Group will play a 
important role in restoring trust between people and law-enforcement agencies,” 
the deputy head of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek, Lilian Darii, told IWPR.

Officials in Kyrgyzstan say the OSCE unit will play a mediating role between 
the mainly ethnic Kyrgyz police and the local population, especially the Uzbeks.

Farid Niazov, spokesman for interim president Roza Otunbaeva, told IWPR there 
was a real need for this role as the local authorities in southern Kyrgyzstan 
had failed to build bridges between the two communities.

“The president has long noted... that local officials and police need to 
establish contact between citizens and the law-enforcement agencies and build a 
high level of trust between them,” he said. “Unfortunately, this has not been 

Opponents of the deployment include local officials in the south, as well as a 
group called People of Kyrgyzstan Against the Deployment of Foreign Forces, 
which has staged a series of demonstrations in the capital Bishkek and other 
cities since mid-July.

They warn that a foreign presence could make the situation worse, undermining 
the authority of local police, and that the deployment might be open-ended.

Aibek Saipov, one of the organisers of the People of Kyrgyzstan protest group, 
said there was no need for the OSCE mission.

“The situation is becoming more or less stable. The people [including] the 
young people are preparing to go and assist the police,” he said.

Saipov denied that his movement was a front for any political grouping in 

During the demonstrations, protesters could be seen holding placards 
proclaiming, “We Won’t Let This Country be Turned into Kosovo”, reflecting the 
view that the Uzbeks of southern Kyrgyzstan might exploit the international 
presence to press demands for autonomy. They see similarities with the 
situation in Kosovo, which has shifted from being a province of Serbia to an 
Albanian-run independent state.

Political analyst Mars Sariev agrees with these concerns, suggesting that the 
OSCE police would favour the Uzbek minority and report that its rights were 
being violated. “The Uzbek [community] will use this and increase tensions. 
Then the police can report to their superiors that the Uzbeks need some kind of 

IWPR put these concerns to OSCE headquarters in Vienna, which replied that the 
deployment was at the Kyrgyz government’s request and the PAG’s task was to 
“assist efforts to create the stability and trust that is needed to rebuild 
community ties and to look forward to the future. How the country shapes its 
future is up to its leaders and its citizens.”

Other analysts say that aside from genuine concerns about sovereignty, some of 
the opposition is being driven by groups with a range of agendas and vested 
interests of their own.

Some of them, like officials and police in southern Kyrgyzstan, perceive the 
OSCE mission as a direct challenge to their authority. Certain political 
parties, meanwhile, have seized on the issue as a way of promoting themselves 
ahead of the October parliamentary election.

“The issue… is extremely politicised,” Pavel Dyatlenko of the Asia-Polis 
think-tank said. “Many political forces are trying to score points by 
artificially playing up the issue. For some politicians, it may be a very 
convenient way of getting themselves into the public arena.”

A leading human rights activist, Aziza Abdirasulova of the Kylym Shamy group, 
said opponents of the OSCE force included “the misinformed, who think that if 
police come here, they might take over the country; a second group who were 
implicated in this situation [violence] and fear that their crimes and illegal 
actions will be exposed; and a third group comprising police who are benefiting 
by extorting money from detainees, taking bribes and fabricating criminal 

Kyrgyzstan’s interior minister, Kubatbek Baibolov, said the heated debate had 
little to do with the facts.

“It’s no more than political infighting; it’s an instrument [being used] ahead 
of the parliamentary election,” Baibolov said in remarks quoted by the KyrTAG 
news agency.

At a local level, two journalists reporting from southern Kyrgyzstan told IWPR 
that anti-OSCE feeling did not seem to be running high. Neither wanted to be 
named as the situation there remains volatile.

One Osh-based reporter said Uzbeks in the city were supportive of the plan, as 
they remained mistrustful of sections of the local police force. The other 
journalist witnessed one of the protests against the deployment, and said it 
was only attended by about 700 people.

“I’m inclined to think these are staged actions, artificially set up by 
opponents of the OSCE police deployment,” he said. “In my opinion, people are 
definitely not preoccupied with the OSCE. They worry about the problems of 
daily life – how to rebuild what’s been destroyed, and ethnic relations.”

Security expert Leonid Bondarets is concerned that the OSCE team will be too 
small and its mandate too restricted to make a difference.

“This group of 52 people can only gather information, nothing more,” Bondarets 
said, suggesting that by collecting mutual recriminations made by the Kyrgyz 
and Uzbek communities, it might inflame rather than reduce tensions.

Abdirasulova, however, said the OSCE force could make a real contribution to 
rebuilding confidence in an environment in which police were viewed by some 
residents as heavy-handed and not to be trusted.

“If the OSCE police force comes, there is hope that the [local] police will do 
their job according to the law and that violations will be prevented– ensuring 
that detainees are not beaten, that they have access to lawyers, that they get 
medical help when necessary, and that their relatives are notified,” she said.

Timur Toktonaliev is an IWPR-trained journalist in Bishkek.

This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central 
Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the 
European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and 
Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no 
way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign 
Ministry of Norway.

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