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Kazakhstan counters terrorism through public awareness
Reporting on terrorist activity and how to identify and resist its influence makes residents an ally to peace and stability.
By Gulmira Kamziyeva
ALMATY – Kazakhstan is adding public awareness to its arsenal in the struggle against a growing terrorist threat.
As a supplement to the country's security and military operations, information dissemination – explaining the difference between acceptable behaviour and terrorism, between true religion and extremism – is essential in controlling the spread of harmful teachings, analysts say.
Anti-terrorist information campaigns are "a key aspect" of amendments to the counter-terrorism law that President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed January 4, Almaty lawyer Daniyar Saumatov told Central Asia Online.
"The new law calls on the government to co-operate with the media and others in preventing the emergence of new followers of terrorism," he said. "Government agencies must employ the media to explain the dangers of terrorism; describe the forms and methods of terrorist recruitment; contribute to forming a negative public attitude toward terror; and help knock down social support for terrorism." Also in line with the new law, government agencies plan to hold information campaigns involving various public events, meetings with civil society activists and clerics, and inter-faith conferences, Saumatov added.
The information war on terrorism is a key underpinning of Kazakhstani long-term planning, Nazarbayev said in his "Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy" address to the nation December 15.
"The state and citizens must work as a united front against all forms and manifestations of radicalism, extremism and terrorism," he said.
"We cannot allow true belief in the Almighty to be replaced by aggressive and destructive fanaticism."
Kazakhstan has met with international analysts of terrorism, including those from the OSCE and CIS, to discuss government co-operation with the media, civil society and others in combating terrorism, said Zhanat Dzhasarov, a ruling Nur Otan party-affiliated member of the parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstani media have published anti-terrorist materials and a new website – www.counter-terror.kz – has appeared, providing comprehensive information about terrorist movements and explaining how extremist ideology differs from true religion.
There was no information on who is running the counter-terror website.
Government backs such articles
The National Security Committee (KNB) expressed support for such publications and articles.
"A website featuring positive information and explaining things to and educating the public certainly deserves support," KNB spokesman Kenzhebulat Beknazarov told Central Asia Online.
Any extremist or terrorist influence can be countered by presenting alternative and factual information, Galiya Azhenova, spokeswoman for the Adil Soz pro-media rights NGO, said.
"I think the more media and Web resources the better," she said, adding, "Forewarned is forearmed."
MP Svetlana Romanovskaya of the ruling Nur Otan party agreed, noting that various terrorist incidents in Kazakhstan in 2011 alarmed many members of the public and awakened a desire to know more about the problem. Terrorists blew themselves up in Aktobe and Atyrau, the first suicide bombings in Kazakhstan's history.
"Such publications are needed today, since access to information is the most important thing now," she said, adding that many individuals reluctant to speak out could easily send an anonymous question to media.
"Kazakhstanis, especially youth, need to be informed about terrorist organisations, their origin and the harmful consequences of their activities," independent political scientist Kakharman Kozhamberdiyev told Central Asia Online. "So we need to work in that direction and involve specialists, scholars and (other) authoritative people in this work."
Problems need highlighting rather than obscuring, said Aitkali Isengulov, a former deputy defence minister in charge of personnel training, adding that he expects information campaigns to "deliver good results."