Kazakhstan has been Central Asia’s showpiece since it gained independence from the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Vast oil reserves in the Caspian Sea have financed the glittering new capital, Astana. And that’s the image its leader Nursultan Nazarbayev has tried to project to the outside world during his two decades unchallenged at the helm.
A muck-raking opposition newspaper, Respublika, paints the country very differently. It gives voice to opposition politicians banned from appearing in the state media and prints damning articles about corruption among Kazakhstan’s elites. It highlights the daily injustices faced by ordinary people which other newspapers won’t touch.
The newspaper has been shut down a dozen times, only to be resurrected under different names. It’s faced countless law suits and its editor-in-chief, hounded out of the country, has to run the paper from her exile in London. No print house in the country will touch Respublika for fear of being shut down, so the paper has resorted to flying in its entire print run from Russia every week.
And when at least 17 protesting oil workers died in a police crackdown on December 16th 2011 – shattering Kazakhstan’s carefully cultivated image of stability – the Respublika newspaper was there to cover the event. This observational documentary follows one of Respublika’s reporters as she investigates the aftermath of the bloodiest day in Kazakhstan’s modern history.
25 mins, Al Jazeera English, 2012