The access to information was hindered during the tragic events of January. None of the TV channels covered the situation during the first days of protests. Yet, the government realized that keeping people in the information vacuum wasn’t wise since it would cause other problems. That is the reason why in the midst of events (January 5-6), when the Internet had been cut off throughout the entire country, citizens of Kazakhstan started to receive information on what was going on from TV (Khabar24, Kazakhstan, and Atameken channels were broadcasting).
Mainly, those were news items on the current situation in Almaty and other regions, President’s addresses, and warnings on the possible administrative and criminal liability for calling to extremism and terrorism, disseminating knowingly false information, and going outside during the night-time curfew.
People could read news on inform.kz, qazaqstan.kz, tengrinews.kz, 24.kz, baq.kz, baigenews.kz, and stopfake.kz without the Internet connection. At that time, it became possible to use services of Kaspi bank and Halyk bank during the Internet shutdown. The emergency rescue service regularly sent text message reminders on the introduction of the night-time curfew.
In general, we can suggest that access to information during the state of emergency (SoE) was restricted to different degrees in various fields. It mostly concerned the reasons and the causers of those bleak events as well as the number of people who had suffered or got injured.
Taking into consideration that governmental TV-channels were the only source of official information and they dosed it out in a very cautious manner, the society faced a pressing need in additional data. Those challenging days led to a harsh spike of the popularity of Telegram channels, especially of those authors, whose websites were blocked. For instance, orda.kz and kaztag.kz were banned, but the vigorous efforts of their newsrooms continued on Telegram. ORDA’s Editor-in-Chief, Gulnar Bazhkenova, wrote
on her Facebook page: “Our website Orda.kz has been blocked. Glitches began two hours ago, and now the website does not load at all. We’ve checked the VPN access, and it works. Our contacts in Russia checked it – and it loaded. So, it’s been banned
”. Media circles made an immediate statement
with regard to that and other cases, where they condemned such bans and harassment of journalists. https://newreporter.org/2022/01/10/terroristicheskaya-ataka-na-kazaxstan-chto-pishut-smi-kazaxstana-tadzhikistana-i-uzbekistana/
Banning of websites continued after January events. As a consequence, they carried on informing their readers through Telegram, which, in turn, gave way to the significant increase in the number of subscribers. Thus, by that time this paper was prepared, the number of ORDA’s followers had arrived at about 130 thousand, while before the outbreak of January events, the audience of their Telegram channel had not exceeded 3 thousand.
Besides, it resulted in a new sound of such authorial and anonymous Telegram channels as БЕСсимптомно
(roughly translated as ‘NO symptoms’ with a sort of play of words with a hit to ‘Demon’s signs’) and Qumash
(a slang word meaning ‘Do tell’). In addition, an official Telegram channel of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan
was initiated, which covers
major news and events related to the activities of the Cabinet of Ministers.
In March, esquire.kz made a rating
of the most sought-after and widely-read national Telegram channels. Notably that channels of those media organizations that had been blocked in January came out on top among others.
One of the issues, which journalists and bloggers had to address, resided in the dissemination of fake information. To handle bogus stories and to prevent spreading out of the misrepresenting news, caused by the irregular Internet connection and information vacuum, a number of media outlets appealed
to the national government as follows: