News Digest

Nov 22, 2020

Media Digest

Nov 22, 2020


Biweekly CAW Media Digest.
The Digest provides updates on
the most recent developments in Central Asia.
To subscribe to or unsubscribe from this list, please contact the CAW team.

Kazakhstan - Lack of Free Elections and Independent Media
Fugitive oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov has called on supporters to vote for another opposition party in an effort to highlight government control of elections. Ablyazov claims that the All-National Social Democratic Party is in fact a party created as fake opposition, and that voting for them would serve to embarrass the ruling (and dominant political party) Nur Otan.
Along with government pressure, independent media outlets in Kazakhstan are now increasingly threatened as advertising budgets fall. Traditional advertising revenue has been disappearing for quite some time, while state support is limited to loyal outlets.
Kazakhstan will send humanitarian aid in response to Kyrgyzstan's official appeal. Both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have agreed to send aid in an effort to shore up stability in the region, with much of the support taking the form of PPE to help fight COVID-19.
Kyrgyzstan - Constitutional Tinkering and Troll Factories
Hundreds are rallying in Bishkek to protest a proposed constitution that would give sweeping new powers to the president. The changes are believed to be an attempt by Sapar Japarov to consolidate power after rising to the post of both prime minister and acting president during the election protests.
A Human Rights Watch report dives into the details of the proposed constitutional changes, highlighting the massive changes that it would entail. The new constitution would see a significant erosion of checks and balances, and would weaken the power of parliament.
The long, complex borders along the Ferghana Valley continue to give rise to armed disputes and jockeying between local communities as well as the national governments of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Weak government control and competition over resources can lead to flare-ups, and demographics in the region may lead to future, larger conflicts.
Troll factories have made a profit in the service of domestic Kyrgyz politicians. The shadowy industry is hard to break into, but fake media accounts and toxic website commentary have become a figure of Kyrgyz political discourse.
Uzbekistan - Freedom of Expression
Despite reform initiatives introduced under current Uzbek president Shavkhat Mirziyoyev, social expression in Uzbekistan is still dangerous and far from free. COVID-19 has only exacerbated the issue, with government attempts to clamp down on disinformation leading to situations where local politicians or the security apparatus continue to detain and abduct based on social expression.
Turkmenistan - Man's Best Friend
Authoritarian president Gerbanguly Berdymukhammedov has unveiled a 6-meter high golden statue dedicated to the Alabay breed of dog in Ashgabat. The president has long expressed a love for the local breed, even while the government carries out a campaign aimed at exterminating strays from the streets of the capital.
Regional Developments - The CR Express, COVID-19 Recovery
Analysts have highlighted the failures of Chinese attempts to integrating rail freight as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. Current data does not seem to show a large benefit gained from the much-vaunted throughput to Europe from China, and significant issues remain if the system is to be expanded.
As the region looks to recover from COVID-19, a better environment for private entrepreneurship and an investment in human capital will be crucial in setting local economies back on track. Reports recommend using the recovery as an opportunity to massively reform economies and avoid lapses back into inefficient practices.

CAW Team