In court of Petropavlovsk on November 5, was read the verdict, which opened a radically new page in the activities of local journalists and clearly identified the serious risks of this profession. On that day, the judge Nisveldy ZHANIBEKOVA sentenced acting editor of information agency “Kazakh-Zerno” Sergey Bukatov to a year of personal restrain for libel. That is, it is not a penalty, after such sentence, in case of any breach by Bukatov his “personal restrain” easily and free can be turned in deprivation of freedom. Thus, North Kazakhstan journalism entered a dark period, when for the desire to tell about the complexities in cooperation between entrepreneurs and government agencies, and for assessment of the activities of such government agencies any journalist can easily forfeit his own freedom. Against this background, a strange sound calls the world to fight corruption. Because such a struggle, it turns out can be very costly not to those who, in the opinion of journalists, creates conditions for corruption, and by journalists who dare to talk about it. Against this background, calls to fight corruption worldwide sound very strange. Because such a struggle, as it turns out, can be very costly not to those who, according to journalists, creates conditions for corruption, but to journalists themselves, who dare to talk about it.
We remind how the events moved. With the requirement to institute criminal proceedings against journalists of Information Agency “Kazakh-Zerno” for libel the Chairman of the Board of “Ak-Bidai Terminal” Raphael Galyamov came in court of Petropavlovsk. He, in addition, has pursued litigation for 100 million tenge. But it happened so that in the court was also mentioned the fair name of the Minister of Agriculture Asylzhan MAMYTBEKOV (picture).
Although the main agrarian of the country Asylzhan Mamytbekov was not the plaintiff or defendant at the trial, but his shadow was hovering in the courtroom. The company, which is headed by the plaintiff, is the “daughter” of Food Corporation, and the “father” of this organization is known to everyone – the Ministry of Agriculture and its A. Mamytbekov, which was thoughtlessly criticized in their articles on the website IA “Kazakh Zerno” written by journalists, working under pen-names Leah Strick and Alimbek Gabitov.
These disinterested persons, hiding their names, did not count on a generous reward for their information about the situation on state-owned terminal creating, in their opinion, the conditions for corruption. Although, coming into the last and decisive battle against corruption, our chiefs, as they claim, are even willing to pay for the reports of this evil at fixed rates, which increase according to the severity of the crime. Journalists simply wanted to do “a public duty when informed all concerned citizens and government agencies about the facts of parasitism of officials on the state property,” as was stated in the article “Corruption revelations of the Minister Mamytbekov”. As a result, they themselves were accused of libel and wanted to punish for 100 million tenge – along with the information agency, which has contributed to the performance of public duty.
In the series of articles that gave cause for accuses in libel, the above authors reported on a certain grain trading company with the eloquent title “Long-suffering grain”, which tried unsuccessfully to use the services of state-owned joint-stock company “Ak Bidai-Terminal” at the port of Aktau. Attempts to ship the grain abroad through the port stretched into months, and contracts were burning, because of the absence of clear rules about priority of shipment at the terminal – everything is left to the monopolist. At a time when the service fee of the terminal compared with the same Russian ports is mere pennies, you can imagine how many big and small grain traders want to have friendship with the leadership of the terminal.
The culprit of the current situation, according to journalists, is the Minister of Agriculture. However, Asylzhan Mamytbekov does not deny this, but estimates an event … as a blessing. “Since 2009, we have increased the efficiency of the terminal several times and brought the annual shipment to 700,000 tons, but there are, of course, those who bought 10 million tons of grain and says,” I will go and ship. “If we give the possibility to ship (shipment of grain for export through JSC “Ak Bidai-Terminal”) for such non-professionals in this business, we will have less than 200,000 there (tons annual shipment of grain – V.M.)”, boasted the Minister not in a shy way in one of his interviews. It is this public statement that was interpreted by journalists as a confession to patronize major grain exporters – about what wrote the author of one of the articles, the reliability of which was challenged in the court of Petropavlovsk.
– We even made a special request to the Minister of Agriculture from the IA “Kazakh Zerno”, in which explicitly raised the question: Please name the companies that have the right to ship through the “Ak Bidai-Terminal”. And we received an evasive answer – a table that provides the names of the thirteen companies with a note “etc”. The reply contained the information about the companies which work with the state-owned terminal on a regular basis, but nothing was told about the companies that are authorized to work with it, said the chief editor of IA “Kazakh Zerno” Victor Aslanov.
The question and the answer of the Ministry were published on the website if information agency as food for thought.
– In general, there is a lot of information proving the lack of transparency in the work of the state-owned terminal. The “Ak-Bidai Terminal” does not even a website, although this is a worldwide practice. This is a strategic target, the port. For example, if an businessman in the port of Novorossiysk wants to ship, he comes to the site, where an application form is represented electronically. He fills it in, and that is all. It is a simple operation. And what do we have? “Ak Bidai-Terminal” is located in Aktau. Grain-producing regions – many thousands kilometers away, because the country is huge. And everyone has to go to the “Ak Bidai”, Victor Aslanov listed disadvantages in the work of the terminal.
In the court of Petropavlovsk defence team of journalists applied for entering upon the record the materials on the financial and economic activities of the terminal in 2010-2011. “In 2010, the terminal only increases its volumes, probably, were explored the ways how to “earn”; in 2011, we have seen, all these problems with exports in all glory “, said the chief editor of IA.
Here are represented the extracts of what was written by the national media about the activities of “Ak Bidai-Terminal” at the same time.
Text box 1
IA News-Kazakhstan. Agency for Protection of Competition (APC) of Kazakhstan handed to financial police the case file against JSC “Ak Bidai-Terminal”, which is accused of illegal refuse to number of customers for grain shipment, reported the press service of the anti-monopoly authority.
Text box 2
The audit found that the JSC “Ak Bidai-Terminal” has not developed a system of priority during grain shipment; exporters are not provided with any information on the workload of the grain terminal, which deprives them of the ability to plan their work and forces to use the services of forwarding agents for a certain fee.
Text box 3
Moreover, the system of provision of services of JSC “Ak Bidai-Terminal” – the only specialized company in Kazakhstan to implement the handling of grain to ships, is organized in such a way that producers and exporters of grain are forced to work exclusively through freight forwarding companies, for services of which they have to pay about 259 tenge per ton of product.
Text box 4
Along with this, the current legislation does not regulate the procedure for shipment of grain for export through the terminal and the port. Moreover, procedure and form of signing contracts between the exporter and JSC “Ak Bidai-Terminal” is not defined, said the public prosecution office in its report.
Text box 5
JSC “Ak Bidai-Terminal” forced services of freight forwarding companies upon grain traders, said the press service of the Agency for Protection of Competition (APC).
Text box 6
“JSC “Ak Bidai-Terminal” unreasonably refuse to sign contracts for shipment of grain with grain traders, and forced conditions of signing service contracts with freight forwarding companies”, said in a statement issued on Saturday after a meeting of government agencies, reported KazTAG.
Text box 7
According to the APC, the cost of services of freight forwarding companies significantly increased the value of the goods and “actually makes the entire export operation meaningless from a financial point of view.” “In addition, grain traders were able to make delivery of the goods on their own”, said the press service.
Text box 8
“The actions of the subject were classified as abuse of a dominant position, with the decision to open a case of administrative offenses in accordance with paragraph 3 of clause 147 of the COAO”, concluded the press-service of APC.
In their publications journalists of IA “Kazakh-Zerno” also used information from the abundant correspondence with the Public Prosecution Office of Mangystau and the Agency for Protection of Competition. In fact, they simply and effectively told about the problems that concern grain exporters nowadays. In particular, they stated that the lack of clear rules in any case creates conditions for corruption.
It is difficult to argue, but that, as it turns out, Sergey Bukatov was brought to trial. Probably, it was the lesson for other “paper-stainers” in order to show them that next time before having and expressing their own point of view, for what they have right according to the Constitution of Kazakhstan they should think a little bit. In the judgment (that contained 16 pages), written by judge Nisveldy Zhanibekova, was not indicated any specific information spread by Bukatov that would obviously not true and were distributed solely for the purpose and intent to defame the honor and dignity of the Chairman of the Board of “Ak Bidai-Terminal” Raphael Galyamov. And after reading this sentence I have the persistent view that the judge Nisveldy Zhanibekova … has a bad understanding of what libel is. Otherwise, in my opinion, she would have described all the details and would not muddy the waters, through which very clearly reflected strong desire to convict journalist at all costs in favor of the head of the terminal.
Judge yourself. The second page of the verdict lists all nine publications on the activities of the terminal, but there were no specific information in them. But then there was also mentioned: “These articles provide knowingly false information for Bukatov, which hurt business reputation of JSC “Ak Bidai-Terminal”, which was also connected with prosecution of the leaders of JSC in corruption offenses”. Nothing more! What specific information is false, why they were “designedly false for Bukatov” – that is, it remained unknown why did he know of their falsity, but specifically distributed them for the purpose and intent to defame the terminal leadership.
It seems that only judge Zhanibekova knows it, but she keeps this secret like an apple of the eye and did not tell anything in her judgment. But immediately after the above quote she cited an extract from the opinion of the expert Sanyat Blatova, candidate of philological sciences: “In the first article “Kazakhstan: Who owns the grain terminal point calls the tune?” editor office of the newspaper confirms that in the previous articles they touched the honor and dignity of Mr. R. Galyamov by the assessment of the activities of JSC” Ak Biday-Terminal”.
The use of pseudo-logical provocative conclusion offsets the positive conclusion and suggests a transition to a “proof of bad work done” (no evidence, but there is an emotional statement of fact, distinguishes tactics of mockery from tactics of charges).
At first glance I guessed that Ms. Blatova knows many clever words and knows how to connect them with each other so that you will not understand them “without a bottle”. But an “assessment of activity” is not the information for distribution of which a person can be brought to trial. These are value judgments, because the data – it is still the specific information that you can test, confirm or deny. But any kind of value judgment is always subjective, and it is impossible to check it out, to confirm or deny it. But no one cares and nobody want to search where is data, opinion or value judgments in all this mess. Apparently, the sentence was written for different purposes.
However, further judge Zhanibekova also uses extracts from the opinion of Blatova: “In the second article “Traces hidden in the water, or fishing grain in muddy water”, the author introduces the JSC “Ak biday-terminal” in the negatively assessed associative array that is associated with the expressions “still waters”, “dirty tricks”, “muddy water”, by stating that “the example of such still waters is the terminal of the international port of Aktau “Ak biday- terminal”. By the author of the article this expression sounded like a statement: “The outstanding example of such still waters is the grain terminal of the international port of Aktau JSC “Ak biday-terminal”. If this is the data, you might say as well that Sanyat Blatova is not a lecturer, but a heroic Brazilian pilot. In general, all extracts of professional judgment of Ms. Blatova are full of words and phrases: “negative response”, “negative painting”, “the strategy of discrediting”, “negative value judgment”, “statements are offensive”, but there is not even a word about the specific information! Thus, in my opinion, specialist Blatova unwittingly gave the conclusion of the innocence of journalists, because there is no such a law by which people could be brought to trial for expressing opinions, doubts, judgments, estimates and characteristics.
Well, how you can treat this part of the expert conclusion of Blatova, for example: “This technique -“building a sense”- a special intellectual operation and rhetorical speech strategy through which the author wants to “hide” his personal intention and to show readers that his opinion has objective sense?” May be they show their competence, and therefore use such weird words”. How intention can be subjective or objective, just as the sense could not be subjective or objective sense, knows, probably, only associate professor Blatova, who fabricated her opinion at the request of the private prosecution. But even she in black and white wrote about the views of the author. So, for an opinion, it seems, he was convicted.
Because, as I have said earlier, in the verdict there was no indication of specific information, as well as the fact that Bukatov knew in advance of its falsity, and that he specifically spread them with an intention to defame someone, as well as the fact, why this intention appeared in his head. But, in my opinion, the judge Zhanibekova sends clear signal to all reporters by her verdict – anyone, who dares to write about creating the conditions for corruption, lack of transparency in relationships between the state structures and businessmen, can be punished for libel. In order different paper-stainers do not wipe the holy. And one more thing. Probably, Sergey Bukatov is a very dangerous journalist, because personal restraint, in fact, is a real ban on profession for him. Now he will have to stay at home outside of working hours and to report regularly. And for a journalist, like for a wolf, despite progress in scientific-and-technological advance, closed mouth doesn’t get fed. He needs to be in different places and meet different people to collect the material. But about this aspect of his activity – if the verdict comes into force – Bukatov will to have to forget for the whole year. That’s the double flowers of freedom of the press that have bloomed in Petropavlovsk in this December.