Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 134

At the end of June, Boris Giller, the owner of Kazakhstan’s leading newspaper, the weekly Russian-language Karavan, reportedly sold his newspaper, his TV Channel KTK, his radio broadcasting channel Karavan and his two printing houses in Almaty and Astana. The purchaser remains anonymous. (Focus Central Asia [Almaty], June 29 and 30)

The sale of Karavan is politically and economically significant. Karavan is the only newspaper in Central Asia with its own independent printing facilities. Since 1995, Karavan has become openly critical of government policies, but has tacitly agreed not to criticize the president directly. It is Kazakhstan’s most popular newspaper, with weekly sales of 300,000–ten times the circulation of Kazakhstan’s other major newspapers. Experts also believe that Karavan accounts for nearly 40 percent of Kazakhstan’s total newspaper advertising space. The Giller media concern was beginning to exert an important influence on the formation of popular opinion.

Giller’s decision to sell was reportedly provoked by government pressure. In 1995, as Karavan’s articles became more critical, a tax audit led to the imposition of fines totaling several million dollars. Karavan then accused authorities of an arson attack on its $1 million printing house in Almaty. Recently, relations between Giller and the government became particularly sour when Giller reportedly attempted to support former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin as a potential alternative candidate to President Nursultan Nazarbaev by publishing excerpts from Kazhegeldin’s book and airing an interview with Kazhegeldin on KTK.

Local analysts differ in their opinion on who bought Karavan. Some contend that Giller did not actually sell it, but that the purchaser, reportedly an offshore company, is owned by him. Others say that government officials loyal to the president have become its proprietor. In either case, the newspaper may be more docile in the run-up to the 2000 presidential elections.–SC