In the East Kazakhstan region, journalists complain that it is not an easy task to get new information about COVID because local officials refuse to comment. In the beginning, journalists had tried to persuade health officials to change their attitude towards them but now they have applied to the court.
Nine different media have signed a written complaint to the local health authority and the Ministry of Health. Journalists want officials to respect their rights to make requests about the sanitary and epidemiologic situation and respond to them in a proper manner. Given there is no person inside the local health body who would be ready to keep in touch with the media, in their request the journalists have required health officials to hire a spokesperson as Kazakhstan’s media legislation already requires.
In turn, the local health system officials have insisted that even though there is no public relations department within the body, they do their best to respond to media requests as fast as they can. Moreover, once a month they have a briefing with the media. However, journalists have been unhappy with this answer, saying that the epidemiological situation is changing all the time, so they need information more often than once a month.
On October 10, the administrative court of the East Kazakhstan region received a claim from journalists asking the court to force the local health authority to satisfy their request. The first hearing in the court is scheduled for October 25.
This is not just a regional problem though. According to many Kazakhstani media outlets, they often struggle with obtaining official comments on different topics, which is why they want more effective access to the actual data.
Currently, the East Kazakhstan region is in the yellow zone in terms of the number of coronavirus cases as the epidemiologic situation in the entire country worsens again. For example, the number of COVID cases has increased one and a half times over the past two weeks.