Final week, the State Income Committee of the Kazakh Ministry of Finance printed a spreadsheet with 240 rows, a “register of individuals receiving cash and (or) different property from international states, worldwide and international organizations, foreigners, and stateless individuals.”
What media and human rights organizations name a “international agent” register, Kazakh authorities say is an act of transparency pursuant to 2022 amendments to the Tax Code within the curiosity of “growing the extent of residents’ belief in each the state and non-governmental organizations.”
In 2018, Kazakh authorities started requiring that individuals or organizations that obtained cash or property from international entities — whether or not people, states, or organizations — report such transactions to the state. That is, nevertheless, the primary time such an inventory has been made public.
The listing contains numerous organizations from corporations and consortiums, like Medexport Italy (a consortium of Italian pharmaceutical corporations), to numerous authorized companies and clinics. The listing additionally contains dozens of civil society and human rights organizations, from FemAgora, a feminist civil society group, to Paperlab, a public coverage analysis heart. Additionally listed are the consultant places of work of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Freedom Home. Adil Soz, a media watchdog group, and the Kazakhstan Bureau for Human Rights are on the listing. And the consultant workplace of Internews, a nonprofit impartial media growth group, the Institute for Conflict and Peace Reporting, and Reuters are additionally all on the listing.
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As well as, the listing contains a number of Kazakh journalists and bloggers, itemizing them as “particular person entrepreneurs.” In accordance with RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, the listing included particular person identification numbers (IIN) — a novel identifier used, amongst different issues, to open a checking account in Kazakhstan, pay taxes, and buy property.
Native media organizations additionally seem on the listing, too, together with Masa.media and Malim.kz.
The listing’s publication yielded criticism from the Committee to Shield Journalists, with CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator Gulnoza Mentioned saying in a press launch, “Kazakhstan’s inclusion of journalists, media, and human rights organizations in a printed listing of people and authorized entities that allegedly obtain international funding is just too harking back to the ‘international agent’ hysteria we have now witnessed in Russia in recent times.” She went on to air considerations about the place such an inventory in the end leads: “If Kazakhstan desires to stroll within the Kremlin’s footsteps and outlaw journalism and activism, it’s on the precise path.”
Mentioned mentioned that if Kazakhstan “desires to keep up the adherence to its worldwide obligations, the authorities ought to cease revealing the names and private knowledge of journalists, media, and press freedom activists and permit them to work freely and safely with out concern of retaliation for international ties or funding.”
Kazakhstan doesn’t have a Russian-style “international brokers” legislation in place. Neighboring Kyrgyzstan has repeatedly flirted with passing such legal guidelines in the hunt for management largely over the NGO and impartial media sector, however tends to show again as soon as the conclusion units in that such funds are essential to a variety of social companies the state can’t afford to offer. It’s not clear if Kazakhstan goals to go down that highway, however it could discover the identical hurdles forward.
Whereas Astana insists that the listing is a transparency mechanism, in Central Asia such an inventory is not only an inventory. It comes with an unspoken, however extensively understood, implication — that receiving international funding, in and of itself, equates to international management and due to this fact international meddling. It’s, as Mentioned famous, a slippery slope within the former Soviet area.
If these media organizations and human rights teams are receiving international funding, the widespread argument goes, then they should be selling international pursuits. This stems partly from a basic misreading of the intent of such funding and the way such funding truly works — and likewise displays authorities considerations about management. There’s little quibbling, for instance, in regards to the international assist the Kazakh authorities receives and whether or not that results in undue international affect as a result of the funds are funneled by means of the state. When funding goes on to people or non-governmental organizations, the powers that be get nervous.
For now, the listing is only a listing. However will the itemizing of people and entities intrude with their work? Will it make it harder for them to hunt home funding and assist? Will it scare off international funders, pushed away by considerations that what occurred to the NGO panorama in Russia is simply a matter of time in Kazakhstan?