Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev speaks to the media in Nur-Sultan on June 9, 2019. Kazakh authorities published the names of journalists, media outlets, and press freedom organizations in a new "foreign agent" registry on September 19, 2023. (AP/Alexei Filippov)

Kazakhstan publishes ‘foreign agent’ register with names of journalists and media outlets

New York, September 21, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern over Kazakhstan’s publishing of the names of journalists, media outlets, press freedom organizations, and information agencies as part of a new registry of individuals and entities that receive foreign funding.

“Kazakhstan’s inclusion of journalists, media, and human rights organizations in a published list of individuals and legal entities that allegedly receive foreign funding is too reminiscent of the ‘foreign agent’ hysteria we have witnessed in Russia in recent years. If Kazakhstan wants to walk in the Kremlin’s footsteps and outlaw journalism and activism, it’s on the right path,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “But if it wants to maintain the adherence to its international obligations, the authorities should stop revealing the names and personal data of journalists, media, and press freedom activists and allow them to work freely and safely without fear of retaliation for foreign ties or funding.”

On Tuesday, the State Revenue Committee of the Ministry of Finance published the database, the “Register of persons receiving money and (or) other property from foreign states, international and foreign organizations, foreigners, stateless persons, subject to publication.”   

Currently, the registry has 240 entries, including global news organization Reuters and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting; the local office of Internews; journalists Dinara Yegeubayeva, Ainur Koskina, and Dilara Isa; independent press freedom organization Adil Soz; and journalist and media organizations and news outlets from different regions of the country — the Semipalatinsk City Association of Young Journalists, Uralsk-based newspaper publisher Mediastart 2012, MediaNet International Center of Journalism, Youth Information Service of Kazakhstan, and Malim Media. In the registry, journalists are categorized as individual entrepreneurs, and their personal identification numbers are revealed.

The list also includes human rights organizations Freedom House, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, a prominent local organization.

In 2018, Kazakhstan amended its tax regulations that require filing reports on foreign funding. The subsequent amendments, made into law in 2022 and effective as of 2023, required the revenue committee that collects taxes to publish the list of entities that receive foreign financing, according to reports.

The State Revenue Committee said in April the new legislation is aimed at improving public trust both to the state and to non-governmental organizations.