SCO “politically unhealthy” film ban

10 Jun

With Tashkent making last minute preparations for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on 23-24 June, Lord Venal came across this enlightening memo from his recent trip to Tajikistan.

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Tashkent: Sprucing up the Palace of Forums for the SCO summit

Having caught his breath after the crammed programme of his referendum monitoring visit to Dushanbe (frankly the hosts’ generosity – particularly with alcohol – left some parts of the programme rather a blur), Lord Venal found he must have somewhere picked up another interesting document.

This appears to be a proposed secret ban on a number of foreign films, which the SCO considers promote a “politically unhealthy attitude to elected leaders”. The document – which asks that the six member governments back the ban and implement it with no publicity – lists the first batch of what are likely to be a growing list of films, together with a brief description. It calls on the films to be banned from showing in cinemas and on television and blocked on the internet.

Lord Venal remembers seeing several of these at the Rutland Odeon when they first came out in the 1970s, and points out, with some modesty, that he was often told that he bore a passing resemblance to Edward Fox in his youth.

“Films to be banned from presentation (as of 12.04.2016):

October (USSR, 1928) – glorifies the violent overthrow of an established government and turns rebels into heroes.

The Great Dictator (USA, 1940) – encourages unhealthy ridicule of elected leaders and slander over their character and leadership.

Day of the Jackal (UK/France, 1973) – unacceptable presentation of the idea that assassinating an elected head of state is feasible or desirable.

All the President’s Men (USA, 1976) – encourages a cynical attitude to politics and applauds the removal from office of an elected leader.

Primary Colors (US, 1998) – normalises the concept that the outcome of an election could be uncertain.

Downfall (Germany, 2004) – its presentation of the psychological breakdown and encouragement to suicide of an elected head of state promotes an unhealthy attitude to political leadership.

Valkyrie (USA/Germany, 2008) – normalises for viewers the unacceptable idea that organising a coup and removing elected political leaders could be honourable.

Leviathan (Russia, 2014) – depicts an elected politician in an unfavourable light, thus breeding unhealthy cynicism among viewers.”

 

Kazakhstan Issues New Guidelines to Journos

3 Jun

Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry has issued a new set of guidelines for reporters asking them to ensure that they can be easily identified as members of the press when covering events in the country.

‘Journalists who cover mass actions must have their IDs, badges and the possible identification of the press badges: armbands, hats, vests with the words “press”, “media” to refer to their status,’ Almas Saudabaev, director of the Interior Ministry’s State Language and Information department told reporters.

The move follows a Keystone Cops-style incident in the capital Astana when more than 50 journalists were detained by the police at a non-existent protest rally on 21 May.

Lord Venal’s sweatshop in Taldykorgan has been working overtime to produce a range of hi-vis vests and masks for discerning journalists that conform to the new recommendations.

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While the vest will clearly help you stand out from the crowd and is fully waterproof, the mask is said to protect from the effects of tear gas and pepper spray. For a limited time only the vest and mask combo are available for a sensational $29.99.

In future, the police will be in their usual uniforms, often supplemented by riot gear, and the plain-clothes officers of the security services can be spotted in dark suits, black leather jackets and sunglasses.

To help the authorities, maybe anyone thinking of protesting about anything should don the following outfit:

 

 

Astana Cycling Team Snatches Victory in Italy

30 May

The cash for the grand Astana sports project may be drying up, but the cycling team is not out yet as it pedalled to victory in the Giro d’Italia for the third time on 29 May.

Team Astana’s Vincente Nibali put in a plucky performance over the last few days, helped in no small part by long-term race leader Steven Kruijswijk’s crash at the start of the descent of the Coll dell’Agnello in stage 19 of the 21-stage race.

Nibali won the Giro for Astana in 2013, adding to Alberto Contador’s victory in 2008, but with the cash for the project drying up, as falls in the oil price have hit Kazakhstan’s coffers, Nibali could be on his way to join a new start-up cycling outfit in Bahrain.

Nibali rides next in the Tour de France in July, but is insistent that he will play second fiddle to Astana team leader Fabio Aru. Nibali is also targeting the Rio Olympics.

If the two-times Giro winner does pack his bags for the Gulf, then the cash-strapped Astana team will perhaps look to signing cycling wunderkind Peter Sagan on a miserly $4.5 million per year contract.

 

Tajikistan: Notes from the Inside

26 May

Whiling away the final hours before his 4 am flight out of Tajikistan in a pleasant enough nightclub in Dushanbe after a heavy few days of referendum monitoring, Lord Venal borrowed a piece of paper to note down the phone numbers of some very helpful ladies who might be of assistance next time he is on a monitoring visit. Only later did his assistant translate what was on the other side, and it appears to be the first page of minutes of a cabinet meeting on the day after the referendum. Lord Venal cannot vouch for its authenticity, but readers might find it rather charming.

Secret

REPUBLIC OF TAJIKISTAN

23 May 2016

Special Cabinet meeting to review preliminary results of 22 May 2016 referendum

Chair: President of the Republic

Present: Prime Minister and deputies, Interior Minister, Justice Minister, Defence Minister, Chairman of National Security Committee, Chief of Anti-Corruption Agency, Chief of Staff

President: Thank you for rushing here today – I know the whole cabinet could not make it. I think we can say that the referendum yesterday went very well. I was touched by the extent of the people’s support.

Chief of Staff: Yes, well done Dad.

Chief of Anti-Corruption Agency: Yes Dad, that was a good bit of work.

President: Now don’t you start getting ideas. I’m still going to be fit and healthy in 2020.

Chief of Staff: You tell him – I remember when he was born. What if I put all those photos of him up on Instagram? That would stop any chances he ever thought he’d have.

Chief of Anti-Corruption Agency: Look that’s not fair. And you used to boss me around when Mum wasn’t looking.

President: Look, kids, calm down. It was only a referendum. We can have them any time we want. But what we need to do now [text cuts off here]

 

Tajikistan Mulling CentAsexit?

24 May

Lord Venal is just back from observing Tajikistan’s referendum, which gave a resounding yes vote to some controversial proposals.

After the referendum, that was conducted in a spirit of tolerance and democracy on 22 May, it is looking increasingly likely that Tajikistan will opt to leave Central Asia in a move dubbed CentAsexit.

Dushanbe has long contended that Central Asia in its current form is an undemocratic, Turkic-speaking club with the other members bullying poor little Tajikistan over water and its right to construct the Rogan dam.

Long-time leader, Shah Rahmon, whose unlimited term rights  were confirmed in the referendum, argues that Tajikistan would be a better fit in a Farsi-centric bloc called Middle Asia, comprising Iran, Afghanistan and the Tajik nation.

The referendum also paved the way for the Shah’s son to ascend the throne in good time. This will be following in the footsteps of other regional potentates such as Azerbaijan’s Ilam Aliyev who succeeded his father Heydar Aliyev, and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who ascended to the throne after the demise of his father, Hafez al-Assad. That all went well, didn’t it …

 

 

 

Kazakhstan Goes after Muckrakers

6 May

 

With protests over land sales breaking out across Kazakhstan like a hydra on steroids, the authorities are coming down hard on what it deems to be rumour spreading.

The latest media outlet to come in the crosshairs is First Channel Eurasia, which is 20% owned by the Russian government. The channel recently broadcast a programme in which it alleged that the recent protests were being bankrolled by mysterious “outside” forces.

The programme, Analitika, made unsubstantiated claims that people attending the meetings were being paid “between $50 and $150 dollars”.

This claim was later picked up by a regional governor. “Why should we listen to those hiding in the West? Why should we work for Western money? Where is our national pride?” the governor asked, in a report quoted in the Kazakhstani media.

kazaxia’s political wizzard, Gerry Kafali, commented: “In these uncertain times, the authorities will be doing all they can to contain rumours and muckspreading. It is highly irresponsible of media outlets and officials to be peddling such disinformation.”

It awaits to be seen whether these unfounded comments constitute a breach of the rumour spreading law, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Kazakhstan Society up in Arms over Holding Handsgate

4 May

kazaxia has been granted permission to reprint the following article from upstart news agency Appropriated Press.

Almaty (Appropriated Press) – Rights organizations and LGBT activists have condemned a case that opened in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital Almaty against several local websites that republished a photograph which opponents claim violates “moral values” by displaying “nontraditional sexual relations, which are unacceptable to society”.

The image – widely shared on social media – shows two elderly men holding hands, while onlookers smile. Although both men are dressed in formal suits and are apparently in some kind of palace, it does not appear to be a wedding ceremony.

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The controversial image (taken from http://news.am/eng/news/322083.html)

The case is being heard in the same Almaty court as a notorious case in October 2014, when an advertising agency was fined for a poster showing the poet Alexander Pushkin and composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly enjoying a passionate kiss.

Kazakhstan retains conservative social values and a controversial law that would have banned “gay propaganda” was halted by the Constitutional Council in May 2015 only after it had passed through both chambers of the rubber-stamp parliament.

However, those shown on the image of the elderly men holding hands are unlikely to face prosecution any time soon. One has been identified as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey. When Appropriated Press sought comment from a Turkish diplomat in the capital Astana, the response took the form of expletives and threats to take the news agency to court.

The other individual turns out to be Kazakhstan’s own president Nursultan Nazarbayev. His position affords him immunity from prosecution.

But some LGBT activists are underwhelmed by the photo. “As an expression of the two men’s mutual affection, it’s pretty lukewarm,” one commented to Appropriated Press. “It’s nothing like the famous 1979 kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker. That was a real step forward for LGBT recognition in the then Soviet Union.”

 

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