Professional, financial, and language issues

Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world by its landmass, but it’s a comparatively small state by its population and by its economic growth index. Mikhail Dorofeev of, said that media outlets in Kazakhstan could not have large newsrooms due to the size of the market, which is comparatively small, and has limited financial opportunities in the advertising sector. “It’s impossible to make money enough to have a large newsroom with necessary human resources and media equipment in a reality of Kazakhstan,” he said. Dorofeev also added:

“In editorial offices of newspapers, it is doable to organize two or three levels of editing drafts before it goes into the publication, but it’s not quite possible in electronic media, as it is in operation 24/7 mode. We can have only one journalist on duty at night, which means he or she is a reporter, editor, fact-checker, and publishing editor at the same time.”

Almost two-thirds of interviewed media professionals agreed with Dorofeev, that lack of funding is the main reason for lack of professionalism in newsrooms. The latter one-third of them expressed that it’s possible to organize media outlets with less funding professionally. Zhuldiz Abdilda of Ulan believes that it’s doable to do the job professionally as accurately as possible even with small teams. “ has a small newsroom, and yet they have been managing to debunk almost all fakes circulated in Kazakhstan in two languages. Moreover, I have never seen false information published in, which also has a comparatively small team than Aikyn (a state-owned paper), which makes mistakes periodically. Lack of funding should have nothing to do with professionalism,” she added.

Tamara Vaal of believes that lack of professionalism among Kazakh journalists is a bigger issue than the financial issues of the media outlets. Vaal said that “journalists should check everything they receive or read.” She also noted that she had mistakenly quoted a government official, but it was because of a mistake by an interpreter, who altered the meaning of some words in a context of speech. “That was the only mistake I have in the past 8 years of my professional life. We do not have two or three levels of editing, but we aim not to make mistakes. That’s why professionalism takes a bigger role in delivering accurate information to the public, rather than financial troubles. Almost every privately-owned media has financial issues, but not all of them making professional mistakes.”

Two reporters from the West and South Kazakhstan regions said that they were laid off during the pandemic. Another reporter from Atyrau was laid off temporarily, due to the financial problems of the newsroom. She said that 25 percent of the staff were sent home without pay for at least 6 weeks. “I agreed in the hope that I won’t lose the job permanently,” she added.

Zarina Norkabekova, former editor-in-chief at Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, said that neither financial nor professional challenges affected or damaged the reputation of Pravda. it’s a daily newspaper and funded in whole by the government, which means it doesn’t have a lack of funding and time-sensitive articles. Norkabekova also said that the process for requesting information from local or national government authorities for reporters from state-owned media outlets and private ones can vary distinctively. She said that communication officers in government bodies serve state-owned media reporters faster than their colleagues in a private section. “I have been working as a freelance for over a year now. And I have experienced that government bodies often don’t give information you have requested in whole or on time. I did not have such an issue while I was working in state-owned media outlets,” she said.

Darkhan Omirbek of Azattyq Radiosy noted that requesting the information is usually difficult and time-consuming. “Especially, it became even more difficult during the pandemic, as everybody worked from home and most of the government authorities were not reachable by phone,” he said. Azattyq Radiosy is funded by the US State Department and often criticizes the Kazakh government, as its actions often limit citizens’ free speech and liberty rights. An anonymous interviewee from Almaty also confirmed the existence of such difficulty. He said that the communication department of the Ministry of Health has been working disastrously since the pandemic started. He added:

“As a reporter, I have tried to get simple answers to my questions, which were in demand by the public. I have fought against the manipulation of data on COVID-19 cases. The public has the right to know the truth, but the government tried various methods to ignore us, and they succeeded partly. Official COVID-19 cases were extremely lower than cases counted by nonprofit organizations.”

Some of the interviewees said that small newsrooms often have language difficulties while fact-checking the text published in pro-government media outlets of Russia. Russia’s propaganda and its new methods try to give an alternative view and discredit Western society and its media outlets by reporting on some events with partly false and manipulated information. When a news article is related to international affairs, it needs to be checked in various languages. All the participants in this project agreed that the English language should be a priority to Kazakh media outlets and be a part of fact-checking methods for modern media professionals in Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, only a few of them said that they have at least one reporter who knows English proficiently in their newsrooms.