John Giambalvo and Nenad Pejic
Broadcasting Board of Governors Chairman Jeff Shell
Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors Steve Linick
Dear John Giambalvo and Nenad Pejic,
In recent days we have been planning to release our second open letter to your predecessor, Mr. Kevin Klose, President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, expressing our disappointment. For the whole year, he didnot responded to our first letter, however, the issues which we wrote about inour letter of 15 May 2013, are getting worse.
We call on you to investigate, without delay, the numerous appeals and complaints regarding the work style of the directors of the Kazakh, Tajik and Turkmen Services of RFE/RL. These services are systematically violating the labour rights of correspondents and journalists who have dared to protest against violations of the principles of editorial policy. They have suffered harassment and dismissals.
The U.S. administration considers Central Asian countries as strategic partners. Perhaps, therefore, the crimes against humanity committed by the dictators in the region have gone unnoticed.
The lack of response on your part is puzzling. We have already noted facts that require a legal assessment:
1) The Kazakh Service of RFE/RL is white-washing the image of dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, and actively takes part in actions of state propaganda.
2) Materials broadcast by the Kazakh and Turkmen Services of the RFE/RL replicate the lies and official information of the government press.
3) The Kazakh Service of RFE/RL actively and openly cooperates with the NGO WikiBilim in Astana. This is a state-funded organisation which produces the Kazakh-language section of Wikipedia. Articles produced by the organisation are of pro-government nature, find the details in the announcement published on May 15th, 2013.
4) The site of the Kazakh Service of RFE/RL continues to operate the notorious entertainment sections “Wifi-25" and "Chat Aitys" which propagates outright vulgarity. There are other vulgar and obscene materials also found in the social networks pages of the Kazakh service.
5) The section titled "Nowruz Aitys" [Наурыз Айтыс] , started in 2013, is filled with racism, chauvinism, homophobia and vulgarity. It disseminates recordings of the competition held by the Government of Kazakhstan. The materials contained in this section call for the re-drawing of the border of Kazakhstan, and contain incitement of hatred towards foreigners and the neighboring nations, for example:
- Begarys Shoybekov, a poet, tells his rival in the competition that she has become as ugly as a "Sart". (In the original Kazakh: «Сүйкімсіз болып кеттің ғой сарттай болып». The word "Sart" in Central Asia is a pejorative reference to ethnic Uzbeks.
- The poet Birzhan Baytuov expresses his dislike for the Chinese, who, according to him, are invading Kazakhstan under the guise of oil investors, and the number of "slit-eyed" has grown in Almaty, in the West and the South of Kazakhstan. He compares the Chinese to midges that sit on the collars of the Kazakhs. (In the original Kazakh: «Батысымда мұнайды себеп қылып»
Шіркедей қонып алды жағамызға
Міне енді оңтүстікке қадам басты
Бұған қарсы бір айла табамыз ба?»)
Бұған қарсы бір айла табамыз ба?»)
(translation from the Kazakh:
«The Midges have settled on our collars
Under the pretext of oil exploration in my West.
Now here they come to the South,
Will we be able to oppose this?»
- According to the authors of "Nowruz Aitys", Tashkent and Orenburg are supposedly Kazakh cities "unfairly given to Uzbekistan and Russia"; Nazarbayev is a "good guy,” and the "bad people around him" or "internal enemies" - leaders of the Kazakh opposition Vladimir Kozlov and Mukhtar Ablyazov – are to blame for the difficulties of Kazakhstan.
6) The Kazakh service of RFE /RL started promoting the ideas of fascism and xenophobia through an online conference with representatives of Kazakh nationalist movements that call themselves natspaty - that is, "national-patriots.”
- On 26 November 2013, Serikzhan Mambetalin, a natspat stated: “It is time to consolidate all the Kazakh nationalists and be prepared for snap elections; as it stands right now, the Kazakh nationalists do not have their own political party”. At the same time, he stated that all Kazakhs should be nationalists.
- Natspat Mukhtar Tayzhan known for his fascist, anti-Russian slogans, has also been a frequent guest of the Kazakh editors. On 20 November 2013, he stated that he estimated the number of Kazakhs in Kazakhstan had increased significantly and reached 73% of the population. He added that politics in Kazakhstan, in his opinion, should correspond to demographics.
7) The Kazakhservice of RFE/RL violates the requirements of Western journalism and showslack of principle or even betrays the interests of the corporation. On 8 February 2014, Dina Baydildayeva, the Social Networking Editor of the RFE/RL Kazakh Service, held a protest in central Almaty against the arrest of a few activist-bloggers, publicly acknowledging them as her friends. Baydildayeva also demanded the resignation of Yesimov, the head of the city administration or mayor. This action was taken despite the rule that RFE/RL employees should not participate in political activities. On 20 February of this year, Baydildayevapersonally and openly participated in another protest in the center of Almaty according to another video report published by theKazakh service of RFE/RL.
Dina Baydildayeva often makes ribald comments on Facebook – both in her capacity as an editor of RFE/ RL for Social Networking in Kazakhstan and as a private individual. For example, on 9 September 2013, she posted an article about the wife of the dictator Bashar Assad, and commented, "Beautiful bitch."
8) Various forces within the ruling elite of Kazakhstan create manageable nationalist movements for introduction into the public consciousness of the ideas of fascism and xenophobia in society and in order to maintain "controlled tension.” It is very unfortunate that the RFE/RL Kazakh Service is involved in such dirty political games, because these materials can be perceived by the audience as the official U.S. position . Former RFE/RL employees and opposition activists say that such things became possible after the hiring (under mysterious circumstances) of the former deputy head of the city administration of Almaty, Galym Bokasha in 2010, who also turned out to belong to the same tribe as Edige Magauin, the Director of the RFE/RL Kazakh Service. But the journalists who dared to criticize the practice of tribalism, nepotism and corruption in the editorial office – Saida Kalkulova, Nazir Darimbet, Sagat Batyrkhan and Ukulyay Bestayev – were dismissed in 2012. The social circles of Kazakhstan continue to criticize abuses in the Kazakh Service, but the top management of RFE/RL continues to ignore it.
9) Messrs Edige Magauin and Galim Bokash are making peculiar findings themselves. If any material on the website of the Kazakh Service attracts criticism, it gets quietly removed or "erased". It happened, for example, with the article "«Өзбекстанда қамалған қазақ сотталып кетті" (translated as "Kazakh Arrested in Uzbekistan Convicted"). Reader Comments on this item contained explicit insults of Uzbeks, but after our previous Open Letter these comments were rewritten, which is unacceptable from an ethical perspective. The same thing happened with the poetic periodical "ChatAitys" and comments on it; in early 2013, editors of the RFE/RL Kazakh cleanedout the word "sperm" and "sauna" following criticism in thepress.
For the last 12 months, Galym Bokash, editor-in-chief of the RFE/RL Kazakh Service, has been receiving praise in a series ofmaterials published in pro-government media. His publications are advertise in the social network Facebook by activists of nationalist organisations such as Mukhtar Tayzhan, Ajdos Syry and Yerlan Karin, the highest functionary of the central apparatus of Nazarbayev's party Nur Otan.
Dear John Giambalvo and Nenad Pejic,
Upon assuming the duties of President or RFE/RL with more than 60 years of experience in the promotion of democratic values in the former communist bloc, we wish you success in restoring its reputation and audience. We hope you will let us know the results of your investigation into the facts set out in this statement.
Nadejda Atayeva, President of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia
Arif Yunusov, PhD in History, Head of the Department of Conflicts and Immigration of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, Expert of International Network of Ethnic Monitoring and Prevention of Conflicts, Expert of Independent Research Council on Migration from CIS and Baltic Countries, Expert for the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia.
Leyla Yunus, Ph.D. (History), Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Azerbaijan, member of the French Legion of Honour, winner of the Theodore Hacker International Award For Political Courage and Honesty.
Sergey Ignatyev, Representative in the USA, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia;
Dmitry Belomestnov, Representative in Russia, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia;
Alisher Abidov, Representative in Norway, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia;