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New law on media, increasing quality of journalism and working with institution of civil society — development of information industry in Kazakhstan in 2020

Friday, 29 January 2021, 16:24:04

Ministry of Information and Social Development summed up the results of last year and discussed plans for the current one. Minister Aida Balaeva, Vice Minister Bolat Tlepov, Vice Minister Kemelbek Oyshybaev, Vice Minister Askhat Oralov, Chair of the Committee on Religious Affairs Yerzhan Nukezhanov, President Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan Banu Nurgazieva, General Director of Atameken Business Kanat Sakhariyanov. They talked about topical issues of the development of civil society during the pandemic, the information industry, the sphere of youth and family policy, etc.

As Balayeva noted, the state provided vital support to the media, which, like all market participants, were in a serious crisis in 2020.

Much work has been done in terms of timely informing the population during the first wave of coronavirus. One of the key factors in the stabilization of public sentiment was the prompt refutation of fake information and constant informing of the population about the dynamics and scale of development of CVI on the websites stopfake.kz and coronavirus2020.kz. And this work continues successfully to this day.

“Thus, in the field of information, we managed not only to maintain continuity, but also to make a number of important decisions that contribute to a more systematic approach to the implementation of state information policy,” said Balayeva.

A number of new information projects were launched. As part of the celebration of the 175th anniversary of Abai, the Abai TV channel began to work. In order to provide high-quality information to the population about the activities of government agencies, two portals have been launched: the Unified Portal of State Media, which provides citizens with reliable information "firsthand", as well as the Unified Portal of State Programs, which explains their meaning and benefits for the population.

As the minister informed, last year the Ministry embarked on a course for professional development and retraining of journalists, as well as the development of industry journalism. Now these intentions are already being implemented.

“Literally from Feb. 8, the first 50 journalists will begin to specialize in medical topics at the KazNMU named after Asfendiyarov. From Feb. 15, at least 50 journalists will improve their knowledge in the religious sphere on the basis of the Gumilyov ENU, and from Feb. 22 for another 50 journalists, classes will begin on environmental issues on the basis of Al-Farabi KazNU. Similar work will be carried out with other universities in the agrarian, legal, economic and social-labor spheres,” Balayeva said.

The minister noted the work on new rules for the provision of state information orders, and in the future — the adoption of a qualitatively new Law on Mass Media. Here the ultimate goal is the formation of legislatively secured mechanisms for a unified information policy of the state.

“I believe that this year the concept of the draft law will receive wide discussion in order to develop and adopt a new Law on Mass Media in 2022. And this year we face no less serious tasks,” Balayeva said.

The most important of them are ensuring information security of the state and information and ideological work. As one of the directions, work has begun on border areas, where this issue has always been acute. A roadmap has been developed for the development of the state broadcasting network in border areas. The radio frequency competition has already been announced. It is clear that information and analytical programs will be considered as a priority.

An important task is also to increase the share of domestic information content on TV channels.

“Last year we have already reduced foreign content by 30% and this work will continue this year. At the same time, we will have to place the main emphasis on the quality of the produced television content. The next priority I want to designate the strengthening of coordination of information work in the regions, where clear mechanisms should be developed to facilitate the formation of a single information and ideological constant. That is, it is necessary not only to continue to develop already launched projects, but also to focus on the practical implementation of previously planned cases, to develop and propose new relevant initiatives,” explained the minister.

In addition, in the past year, we managed to raise work with civil society institutions to a qualitatively new level.

“This became possible due to the specific feedback mechanisms that we used in our work. There are a lot of them. I will give just one example: from the first days we established a permanent round table at the ministry, where not only the most pressing issues of concern to society are discussed, but also very useful and necessary civil initiatives are developed,” Balayeva assured.

The effectiveness of these initiatives was also proved by the work of the IX Civil Forum, which in 2020 was particularly meaningful. In order to implement the recommendations of the forum as part of the package of proposals received from NGOs, the development of new Rules for Grant Funding has been completed. According to them, many questions related to unnecessary bureaucratic delays and barriers to the creative implementation of social projects were removed. The task for this year is the effective implementation of this document in close partnership with representatives of civil society. According to the minister, this year it is necessary to raise the bar and, as a result, efficiency. Moreover, we will have to work in the same difficult conditions of combating the pandemic, and the challenges and tasks are growing.


On work done in the field of civil society

Vice Minister of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan Bolat Tlepov noted in his speech that today the state is taking many measures to regulate the civil sphere. From year to year, the network of non-governmental organizations is growing both qualitatively and quantitatively. Currently, more than 22 thousand NGOs are registered in the country, of which 16 thousand actually work, 5 thousand are among the active organizations.

“As the Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted in his Address, it is important for representatives of civil society to participate in improving the socio-economic situation of the population. Non-governmental organizations receive financial support through the state social order, grants. So, last year, with the participation of public organizations throughout the country, more than 1,250 social projects were implemented, hundreds of organizations got an opportunity for further development, 38 public organizations received financial rewards,” Tlepov said.

According to him, 2020 is an important year for the civil society of the country. Last year, there have been some important steps and achievements in the civil sector. The main strategic document in this area is the Concept for the Development of Civil Society for 2020-2030. Accordingly, a plan for its implementation was approved by a government decree.

Ensuring the availability of information is one of the main areas of work that is carried out in the implementation of tasks to form a hearing state. In accordance with the law "On Amendments and Additions to Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Information Issues" signed by the Head of State, now each state body will have an authorized person or unit for access to information. Also, for the first time this year, the President will be presented with a report on the state of the sphere of access to information in the country.

According to Tlepov, the level of openness of state bodies is analyzed annually. Last year, for the first time, the activities of not only state bodies themselves, but also their subordinate organizations were assessed.

“As a result, about 150 subordinate organizations have opened blogs of top managers on the Open Dialogue portal. We have done a lot to implement the main ideological document of the country — the Rouhani Zhangyru program. More than 8 million people took part in projects in 2020 alone, more than 30,000 events were held in all regions of the republic. In general, within the framework of the Rouhani Zhangyru program, in addition to the plan of republican and regional events, 17 special projects have been implemented,” Tlepov said.

A large-scale complex of events today is being transformed into a meaningful one and transforms into a new quality. In this regard, since this year, a Roadmap has been developed and launched for the transition of the Rouhani Zhagyru program into the era of national modernization. These measures cover different groups of the population, taking into account the age characteristics. It not only modernizes the spiritual and cognitive consciousness in society, but also consolidates the values ​​of intellectuality and honesty.

The vice minister noted that large-scale tasks have been set and there are systemic plans. At the same time, priority is given to mobilizing Kazakhstanis for positive changes in society and new projects, further strengthening in civil society.


On information work and development of media industry

Vice Minister of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kemelbek Oyshybayev noted that at the end of 2020, the main topic of the information agenda was work to combat coronavirus infection in the country. In order to be fully informed about the activities of all state bodies, the ministry has developed and approved in the Government the republican media plan, Years Full of Creation, for 2020. Its main directions are the 30th anniversary of Independence, the implementation of the Rouhani Zhagyru program and the development of a system of volunteers. In March and May, when a state of emergency was declared in Kazakhstan, the Republican Communication Center was created by the decision of the Government in order to quickly inform the population of matters related to countering COVID-19.

“Along with our ministry, representatives of the Ministry of Health are actively involved in its work. In March, the website Coronavirus2020.kz was launched. Statistical data, infographics, supplemented by expert materials. The site is visited by 100 thousand people a day. The government agencies promptly responded to more than 41 thousand appeals from citizens of Kazakhstan. An official channel called @coronavirus2020.kz has been launched in the Telegram messenger, which has more than 300 thousand registered readers. In order to carry out explanatory work with the population, identify fakes, disinformation disseminated in social networks and messengers, the Stopfake.kz website has been launched. So far, about 450 materials have been brought to the public, proving that they are falsified,” said the vice minister.

In total, 274 thousand materials were published in the media on the topic of CVI in 2020.


Implementation of state youth and family policy

Vice Minister of Information and Social Development Askhat Oralov spoke about the work done in the field of youth and family policy in 2020. A set of measures was implemented within the framework of the adopted Roadmap within the framework of the Year of Youth and the Concept of State Youth Policy of the Republic of Kazakhstan until 2020 "Kazakhstan 2020: Path to the Future’’.

In pursuance of the instructions of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, given at the closing ceremony of the Year of Youth, by the Government's decree of Dec. 30, 2020, the "Comprehensive Plan to Support Youth of the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2021-2025" was approved.

In accordance with the document, a set of measures is planned aimed at activating youth by monitoring housing issues, promoting their employment, supporting young scientists and start-up projects, and implementing the Accessible Sport project. The comprehensive plan consists of 55 points in 10 areas.

According to the vice minister, in order to provide the methodological base of the state youth policy and its further adaptation to the current needs and interests of youth, a national report "Youth of Kazakhstan-2020" has been developed.

To improve work in the field of family policy, the second stage of the action plan for the implementation of the Concept of Family and Gender Policy of the Republic of Kazakhstan until 2030 was approved and is being implemented. An annual national report «Families of Kazakhstan" has been developed, which analyzes the well-being of Kazakhstani families, taking into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the results of the analysis, issues requiring solutions in the industry were identified, recommendations were given to interested government agencies. Changes will be made to the plans based on the experts' recommendations.

In 2020, in order to support non-governmental organizations, we continued to implement socially significant projects, including in the online format. As a result, 22 social projects in the field of youth and family policy were implemented with the involvement of 16 non-governmental organizations, more than 200 events were organized with the participation of more than 300 thousand people. The information coverage in the media and social networks for the implemented projects amounted to about 11 million people. Similar projects have been implemented at the regional level.

In addition, the format of remote project implementation and new technologies made it possible to work on strengthening the organizational and methodological base of 209 regional youth resource centers.

“During the year, new projects were implemented, within the framework of which over 600 thousand representatives of the new generation from all regions of the country received the necessary consultations on various areas of government programs and initiatives aimed at supporting youth. Work in this direction will continue in 2021. Despite the limitations associated with the pandemic, international cooperation in the field of youth policy with our strategic partners from the CIS countries continued. Also, in accordance with world practice, the country plans to work out a “youth development index” and include it in the documents of the state planning system,” the vice minister said.

In accordance with the tasks set by the Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the ministry plans to develop a national project "Tauelsizdik Urpaktary", annual national reports "Youth of Kazakhstan-2021" and "On combating domestic violence in the Republic of Kazakhstan", defining the situation of youth and families , as well as create and organize the work of the Republican project office for work with youth of the NEET category.


Implementation of state policy in religious sphere

Chair of the Committee on Religious Affairs Yerzhan Nukezhanov noted that at present a stable religious situation has developed in the country. The Ministry of Information and Social Development, together with local executive bodies, is carrying out systematic work. In addition, interaction with other interested state bodies has been established.

The effective implementation of state policy was ensured by the current regulatory framework and other program documents. In December 2020, a Comprehensive Plan for the Implementation of State Policy in the Religious Sphere for 2021-2023 was adopted.

This strategic document outlines the main tasks and measures to promote the secular principles of the state, strengthen state-confessional and interfaith harmony and counteract the spread of radical ideology among the population.

Also, in order to optimize public services in the religious sphere, automation is being carried out, at present 6 out of 7 services are automated. This work will be fully completed this year.

According to sociological studies in 2020, there is a high level of support for secular principles among the population.

In order to promote secular principles, large-scale information and explanatory work is being carried out in the media and on the Internet. The media plan Kazakhstan is a Secular State, approved by the ministry, made it possible to achieve the set goals.

In addition, 229 regional advocacy groups, formed from 2,605 religious professionals, explained the principles of secularism to various members of society. This had a positive impact on the observance of the principles of secularism in public relations. One of its concrete results is a decrease in the number of cases of wearing hijabs in the country's schools by up to 12 times (from 2,462 to 201).

State-confessional relations in the republic are built in the format of constructive dialogue and productive cooperation with religious associations. For this purpose, such dialogue platforms as the Council for Relations with Religious Associations and the Assembly of Representatives of Religious Associations continue to function.

“I would like to express special gratitude to the religious associations of the country, which during the pandemic unanimously supported the decisions of the state and made an appeal to observe quarantine restrictions,” the vice minister said.

Last year, during the quarantine period, there were major religious holidays, including Easter and Oraza Ait. During the celebration of Eid al-Adha, in order to ensure compliance with the sanitary standards of the SAMK, with the assistance of the ministry, the website Qurban2020.muftyat.kz was launched, where citizens could leave online orders and applications for sacrifice. For the same purposes, Easter services were held only with the participation of clergymen and were broadcast live on the Channel One - Eurasia TV channel from the Ascension Cathedral in Almaty.

Another important area of ​​the ministry’s work is carrying out information, explanatory and counter-propaganda work aimed at strengthening the population's immunity to religious radical ideologies. Last year, work in this direction was revised and the main priorities were identified. The focus is on the qualitative outcome from the quantitative indicator. In particular, priority was given to groups of the population that might fall under the influence of radical religious ideology (retail outlets, construction sites, etc.), and systematic purposeful work was organized. At the same time, in connection with the tightening of quarantine requirements, outreach work was carried out online, and innovative methods of informing were implemented.

In addition, work was systematically carried out with adherents of the ideology of destructive religious movements, which is one of the most important areas. In 2020, more than 50% of adherents of destructive ideology were covered by rehabilitation measures, as a result of which more than 3 thousand of them returned to the traditional values ​​of Kazakhstani society.

Also, as part of the Zhusan special operation, all women returned from the zones of terrorist activity in early 2020 were rehabilitated. However, due to the addition of 32 women returned by other means, this figure was 90%. Purposeful work continues to rid them of radical views and resocialization.

The increased interest of the population in the Internet, as well as the protraction of the quarantine period, set new tasks for the MIOR. In this regard, the work on informatization in the online format was revised, a set of measures was taken. As a result, it was possible to prevent the growth of radical content in the country's Internet space. In order to protect compatriots from radical sources of religious information, activities have been intensified to identify and restrict access, block, and promptly respond to them.

As a result, in 2020, the number of compatriots registered in religious radical groups on social networks decreased by 46% compared to 2019, more than 21 thousand materials promoting religious extremism and terrorism were blocked and destroyed. At present, in order to increase the effectiveness of preventive and counterintelligence work in social networks, more than 350 specialists in the religious sphere have been trained in new media skills through 7 training seminars.

“Summing up the results of 2020, we can say with confidence that as a result of the work carried out, the religious situation in the country remains stable. Conflicts on religious grounds are unacceptable, the state policy in this area enjoys wide support among the population,” the vice minister said.

In 2021, the Ministry faces a number of important tasks in the field of religion.

First, work will continue on making specific changes to legislation in the religious sphere through other sectoral laws. The proposed amendments provide for the simplification of the issues of registration of religious associations, the conduct of religious events and religious expertise, and administrative norms. It is expected that these changes will have a positive impact on the development of the religious situation in the country.

In addition, it is planned to provide 100% automation of all public services in the field of religious activity, excluding the paper alternative.

Second, the goal is to achieve the rehabilitation of 90% of women who have returned from the zones of terrorist activity. The vast majority of women who arrive are expected to successfully enter society by abandoning radical ideology.

Third, in order to prevent radicalization of the population, it is necessary to ensure coverage of 70% of target groups with information and educational work. It is also planned to cover 70% of the followers of the identified destructive religious movements with theological and psychological rehabilitation measures.

An additional textbook is being developed for students on the preservation of harmonious state-confessional relations in the religious sphere. The manual will increase the level of legal and religious literacy of students, instill in them moral values, patriotism and immunity to radical ideology.

In order to popularize abroad the initiatives of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan - Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev to promote interfaith and intercivilizational dialogue at a high level, a meeting of the XIX Secretariat of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions will be held.

The tasks set before the ministry are a logical continuation of previously implemented measures to ensure the sustainable development of the religious situation in the country and allow maintaining the supremacy of the secular principles of state structure, strengthening interfaith harmony and preventing the use of religion for destructive purposes.


Topical issues of civil society during pandemic

President of the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan Banu Nurgaziyeva, in turn, reported on topical issues of civil society during a pandemic.

As Nurgaziyeva emphasized, a crisis is a time of opportunities. The pandemic has forced a radical revision of the usual methods of work. Distance has led to a renewal of the communication format. And although nothing can replace personal communication, we managed to quickly adapt to new conditions and successfully preserve valuable communication channels.

The importance and effectiveness of collective action has been recognized. Charity and volunteering have taken on a nationwide scale and become a social norm.

“For the first time in history, the Civil Forum of Kazakhstan was held in a remote format as Civil Society Week. Conducting online more than 40 multi-format dialogue platforms made it possible to provide unprecedented coverage of about 20 thousand people,” the president informed.

As a result of the Forum, more than 650 recommendations were developed, which confirms the growing activity of civil society.

Nurgaziyeva also noted that the state, represented by the Ministry of Information and Social Development, provides all possible support to the non-governmental sector.

“So, taking into account our comments and suggestions, a working group was created at the Ministry to amend the law ‘On state social order, grants and bonuses,’ which meets the needs of non-profit organizations. Work has also begun on changing the methodology for allocating grants, ensuring the transparency of grant financing procedures. The non-governmental sector welcomes and supports these initiatives,” she said.

At the same time, there are a number of problems that have been worrying the country's civil society for many years.

First. The state social order is called the key mechanism of interaction between the authorities and NGOs. However, the imperfection of this law for 15 years has hindered the institutional development of the nongovernmental sector.

“For example, the law prohibits the right to purchase any material and technical means, including computers, a copier or furniture. Then how can rural NGOs be developed?” Nurgaziyeva said.

Moreover, NGOs work on the basis of the principle ‘from project to project’ or ‘from competition to competition'.

The regulation of the state social order by the law on public procurement complicates the very process of implementing socially significant projects due to the length and complexity of the procedures.

Akims are ready to allocate funds to non-governmental organizations to solve regional problems, but do not agree that by offering the lowest cost, the project will benefit NGOs from other regions. According to Nurgaziyeva, it is unrealistic to implement the project in the Mangystau region, living in the city of Almaty and not knowing about the social problems and specifics of the region.

Everyone knows that non-governmental organizations, due to the length of procurement procedures, wait for the results of the competition for months. In the best case, it is possible to conclude an agreement in April, and more often it happens in September or October.

In addition, the timing of the project is tied to the financial year, not the calendar year. It doesn't matter when the contract was signed, even if in October, the project must be closed by the end of November. There is no doubt that this affects the quality of the project.

President of the country Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted in his Address that “due to budgetary and procurement procedures, it takes a long time. There is a need to make changes to this scheme”.

“In our opinion, this should also affect the legislation regulating the non-governmental sector. In this regard, we propose to create a working group to revise all laws and regulations governing the activities of non-governmental organizations in order to eliminate legal conflicts that impede the effective activity of civil society,” the president of the SJSC stressed.

Second. The task of all government agencies is to interact with public associations, enter into constructive relations with them, as well as finance civil initiatives, see in partnership the prospect of overcoming local crises and industry problems.

However, despite the instructions of the country's leadership and the protocols of the Civil Forums about the need for all government bodies to provide funds in the budget for the implementation of the sectoral state social order, this instruction is carried out only by individual government agencies.

So, in 2020, funds for the state social order at the central level were provided only in the budgets of the ministries of information and public development, health, trade and integration, as well as the Agency for Combating Corruption and the General Prosecutor's Office.

Meanwhile, in a difficult epidemiological situation, economic instability, more than ever, the services of representatives of public institutions are in demand in establishing a dialogue with the population and conducting explanatory work.

Today, the governments of developed countries are not tasked with building a civil society, but developing social cohesion.

Social cohesion implies active participation of the population in solving urgent problems, overcoming social isolation and social disintegration, such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, orphanhood.

NGOs are mobile and responsive, enjoy public trust and can act as mediators.

For example, their potential could be used to address issues related to the transition to distance learning; problems encountered in the payment of benefits with loss of income during a pandemic.

Taking into account the above, the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan proposes to include the criterion interaction with the non-governmental sector in the rating of assessing the effectiveness of government agencies.

Any modern state needs reliable partners within society itself, who are capable of helping to solve existing problems.

The Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan, being the largest non-profit organization in the country with a broad regional structure, can become the main dialogue platform on which effective communication will be formed, the energy of denial and rejection will be transformed into the energy of creation and the desire to work for the common good.

Civil society should become a new corridor of opportunities for successfully solving the challenges posed by the dynamically changing reality.


Constant dialogue between authorities and society

The results of the meeting of the collegium of the department were summed up by Deputy Prime Minister Yeraly Tugzhanov. He outlined the priority tasks of the Ministry of Information and Social Development in the new conditions. According to him, the Head of State K. Tokayev has set big tasks for the Government within the framework of the “hearing state”. As the President noted, the essence of this approach is not simply the situational response of state bodies to the daily problems of the population. This is, first of all, a constant dialogue between the authorities and society.

“The Head of State has set specific tasks for the further implementation of the concept of a ‘hearing state’. An important step is the development of the draft Law ‘On Public Control’, on this issue is being carefully worked. The ministry should carefully work with the public, take into account all opinions that are expressed in this direction. This is a very serious project that we will work on together with you, especially with the deputy corps,” Tugzhanov said.

He also noted that the pandemic has shown the importance of developing mutual assistance between people. Within the framework of the draft law on charity issues, it is necessary to provide for new mechanisms to stimulate business to participate in charitable programs.

Within the framework of the 30th anniversary of independence, it is necessary to develop a national project "Generations of Independence". There are also specific proposals on it. Within the framework of the national project, specific mechanisms must be envisaged for solving urgent problems of Kazakhstani youth. It is also necessary to develop new approaches to improve family and gender policy. This bill is undergoing some discussion, first of all, it concerns family and domestic violence.

“Today a new deputy group has been created, yesterday, together with the deputies within the walls of the Parliament, this issue was discussed. This issue is of concern to society today, there is something to work with you on. I can say that this draft law has caused a certain resonance, in principle, this is natural and all these challenges will certainly be taken into account,” said the deputy prime minister.

Systematic and carefully verified explanatory work of the Ministry will be required to ensure the principles of secularism and tolerance in the public consciousness, especially among the younger generation.

“In the religious sphere, it is necessary to build a systematic work. Particular attention should be paid not to the spread of ideology or religious radicalism, especially among the youth. This is an important issue. For example, Operation Zhusan. It became possible thanks to the direct participation of the Elbasy and the President. One can count on one hand the countries that intervened and returned home their citizens who had embarked on a destructive path. It was important for us to return mothers and children, to put them on the right path. In the interethnic sphere, it is necessary to strengthen the implementation of practical measures. To do this, it is necessary to identify problematic issues in the context of regions, up to each village, in which they can have a negative impact on interethnic relations. Conduct systematic field research of the problems of interethnic situations in all regions of the country. As a result of which appropriate decisions will be worked out,” Yeraly Tugzhanov said.

In a pandemic and effectively informing the population about the measures taken, the issue of high-quality data presentation is important. The information must be objective and accessible to the public. Therefore, the Deputy Prime Minister instructed to think over a system of training journalists of a new formation, taking into account the best world experience.

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