What journalists should bear in mind when covering the election process in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan announced election of the deputies of maslikhats (local representative authorities) and the Majilis of the Kazakhstan parliament (lower house of the legislative body) for January 10, 2021. together with media lawyer Gulmira Birzhanova have prepared recommendations as to which legal aspects should be remembered by the journalists and the media when covering the election process.

If a media outlet is going to take part in the coverage of the election campaign, it must:
  •  promulgate and submit to the CEC information about the payment rates, conditions and procedure of broadcasting and provision of the printing space in the media no later than on the tenth day after the official announcement of the election date;
  • comply with the rules and requirements of the election campaigning;
  • refrain from the publication of materials that discredit honour, dignity and business reputation of a candidate or political party and cover the election campaign objectively;

    must spread information about the nominations of all candidates and party lists, their registration with voting commissions, by providing equal amount of time for broadcasting and printing spaces;

  • the mass media must provide broadcasting time on a contract basis, printing space for registered candidates and political parties that prepared their party lists;
  • the mass media shall immediately provide opportunities to respective election commissions to publish information about the election campaign and messages specified in this constitutional law.
What the media covering the election must not do

Prefer any given candidate, change the circulation run, stop and comment the candidates’ speeches, as the participation of the media editorial staff in the election campaign means its consent to publish materials of all candidates, without exception.

On the terms of the election campaign

According to the national laws, the election campaign in Kazakhstan starts on the last date of registration of candidates and ends at midnight before the election day. 

The election campaign in the Republic of Kazakhstan starts on December 10 at 18:01 and must end on January 9 2021 at 0:00.

If the repeat voting is scheduled, the election campaign will start on the day of repeat voting appointment. It will end 24 hours before the election day.

On the accreditation

The accreditation is binding upon foreign media only. It is provided to foreign media by the ministry of foreign affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

An accredited journalist of a Kazakhstan-based media outlet does not have more rights than unaccredited journalists. However, accreditation can expedite the process.

About access to information

According to the law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On mass media”, a journalist may apply to the election commission for any piece of information at the stage of preparation to elections.

About work at polling stations

On the voting day, one representative of every media outlet may be present at a polling station upon presentation of a journalist ID card and an editorial task from the moment of a polling station opening and until the election results are reported after the vote counting.

About taking photos and videos

It is allowed to take photos and videos at polling stations, under article 145 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan “The right to pictorial work” as the elections are public event. Traditionally, no consent of the citizens is needed to take video of public events. 

About publication of opinion polls

When publishing the results of opinion polls related to elections, the media must indicate the legal entity that conducted the poll: persons who ordered the poll and paid for it; the time of the poll; the method of collection of information; the precise wording of the question; the number of respondents and the error index of survey results.

About liability for the dissemination of information discrediting the candidates

The law requires that the media must cover the election campaign of candidates, political parties objectively. Therefore, they must avoid publishing agitation materials and other information that deliberately discredit honour, dignity and business reputation of a candidate or a political party.

It also means that the outlets and TV channels must give specified persons an opportunity to publish a refutation to protect their honour, dignity and business reputation in the next issue of the printed source in the same volume, in the same font, at the same place where the refuted message or material was published. On radio and television, the refutation must be broadcasted at the same time of the day or night and in the same TV or radio show as the refuted message or material, and if the said TV or radio show was closed, in another TV or radio show with the relevant thematic scope.

The volume of the refutation must not exceed the volume of the refuted message or material two or more times.

About the content of materials on elections and candidates not to become the case at law

Neutral tone is the best tone. All materials to be published must be checked for preferences towards or biases against political candidates or parties. It means that messages about candidates must not contain an estimation or forecasts regarding them.

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