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Jimmy Wales, Kazakhstan, Tony Blair and Wikipedia: A Timeline

For an overview of this story, please see last week’s post, Jimmy Wales in: The Dictator and I.

The following timeline, compiled by a group of Wikipediocracy site trustees, chronicles some less-well-known facts about the development of the Kazakh-language Wikipedia, its ties to the Kazakhstan government, the Wikimedia Foundation, Jimmy Wales, Tony Blair, and other related persons and entities. We hope that this raw data will aid further discussion of this topic in the New Year. To view or participate in a forum discussion on this topic, please click here. If you have additional relevant information not included here, please contact us at media@wikipediocracy.com.

2007

  • 16 January 2007 – Jimmy Wales is named a Young Global Leader by The World Economic Forum in Davos, as is his eventual wife, Kate Garvey, formerly Tony Blair’s diary secretary. Tony Blair also speaks at the event, his third consecutive annual visit. (Blair will become co-chairman of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2008, and Tony Blair Associates will later form deep business ties with the Kazakhstan government. Garvey will go on to a director role with Freud Communications, where she will count the Tony Blair Faith Foundation as a client. She will wed Jimmy Wales on 6 October 2012 – his third marriage.)
  • 30 March 2007 – Oralgaisha Omarshanova disappears. She is a journalist working at Zakon i Pravosudiye (Kazakh: Закон и правосудие), a newspaper based in Almaty, Kazakhstan, investigating and publicizing government corruption.
  • September 2007 – Jimmy Wales and other World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders attend the WEF “Summer Davos” summit (“Annual Meeting of the New Champions”) in Dalian, China.

2008

  • January 2008 – Tony Blair co-chairs the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.
  • 14–16 March 2008 – Richard Branson assembles a meeting between Jimmy Wales, Tony Blair, Vinod Khosla, Larry Page, and other guests at Branson’s private Necker Island resort.
  • 24 March 2008 – The Wikimedia Foundation announces receipt of a $500,000 donation from philanthropists Vinod and Neeru Khosla. Note that on 24 May 2010, Khosla Ventures will announce a strategic partnership with Tony Blair Associates, which has deep business ties with the Kazakhstan government, and Tony Blair is personally close with Jimmy Wales and his future wife Kate Garvey (who is Blair’s former diary secretary).
  • 18–20 May 2008 – Jimmy Wales co-chairs a Middle East roundtable event of the World Economic Forum, along with a first-ever Kuwaiti co-chair, Mohammed Alshaya. The event is attended by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Quartet Representative Tony Blair. In February 2009 the government of Kuwait will become Tony Blair Associates’ first client in a seven-figure deal, with a similar deal with Kazakhstan being announced in October 2011.
    The Wikipedia article about Mohammed Alshaya’s company was likely written by Daniela Gorini of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, a public relations firm that counts Alshaya as one of its clients.
    Jimmy Wales attends a Kazakhstan reception at this World Economic Forum event, dining on horse meat, which is traditional Kazakh fare. He later explains on 29 December 2012 that he “did not get to meet with any top officials”, and adds that he has had “various other casual or indirect contacts with Kazakhs over the years, but never a formal meeting with the President, the Prime Minister, or any ministers there.”
  • 27–29 September 2008 – Jimmy Wales attends the 2008 Summer Davos (“Annual Meeting of the New Champions”) in Tianjin, China.

2009

  • 28 February 2009 – Tony Blair launches Tony Blair Associates, signing the government of Kuwait as its first client in a seven-figure deal.
  • 10–12 September 2009 – Jimmy Wales attends the 2009 Summer Davos (“Annual Meeting of the New Champions”) in Dalian, China.

2010

  • 24 May 2010 – Khosla Ventures, a venture assistance firm that focuses on cleantech and information technology startups, announces a strategic partnership with Tony Blair Associates, which has close ties to the Kazakhstan government. Note that on 24 March 2008, the Khoslas donated $500,000 to the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • 30 June 2010 – Jimmy Wales intervenes on Wikipedia on behalf of Ruth Turner, a former Director of Government Relations in Tony Blair’s office, who then jumped to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. In doing so, Wales states that he has been “informally advising (as a volunteer only) the Tony Blair Faith Foundation on their Internet strategy”. (Tony Blair Associates has close ties with the Kazakhstan government.)
  • 22 July 2010 – Jimmy Wales infringes on Wikipedia’s own guidelines not to directly edit articles where one may have a conflict of interest, by removing text stating that Wales is advising the Tony Blair Faith Foundation on Internet strategy. (Tony Blair Associates has close ties with the Kazakhstan government.)
  • 15 August 2010 – Jimmy Wales complies with Wikipedia guidelines asking editors to initiate a Talk page discussion where they may have a conflict of interest, when he asks that a section be removed from the Wikipedia biography of Cherie Blair (Tony Blair’s wife). The section details an embarrassing incident in Cherie’s past, which Wales calls “irrelevant and unimportant” and “trivial”. Less than 24 hours later, the section is removed from Cherie Blair’s biography by a Wikipedia editor who had been blocked on Wikipedia eight times prior to this point. (Note that on 13 January 2011, Jimmy Wales and Cherie Blair will together cut a ceremonial cake to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Wikipedia.)
  • 6 November 2010 – Jimmy Wales complies with Wikipedia guidelines asking editors to initiate a Talk page discussion where they may have a conflict of interest, when he complains that the Wikipedia biography about the commissioner of police of the metropolis (of London) was “a mess for a long time”, whose “tone is unrelentingly negative”. Note that Jimmy Wales’ friend Prime Minister Tony Blair had confirmed his support for the commissioner during his time of controversy.
  • 30 November 2010 – Ryan Gallagher of Open Democracy’s Russia desk reports “Decapitated dogs and burning bureaus: the year Kazakhstan did democracy”. Gallagher’s article states:
“Kazakhstan – where dissenters, journalists and human rights activists have been frequently and consistently repressed with zeal”;
“…after having supported an oppositional political party (Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan), reporters from Respublika turned up to work to find the corpse of a decapitated dog outside their offices. Next to the dog was a note that read, simply, ‘This is the last warning’. The following day, their offices were burned down.”;
“Banned from the printing presses, and faced with a $400,000 fine in 2009 for publishing an opinion piece critical of the government owned bank BTA, the paper is now self-published by dedicated staff using office equipment, maintaining a circulation of 19,000. They have also adopted social media such as Facebook and Twitter to get their stories out. But their website, which once reached approximately 33,000 people per week (a substantial figure given that approximately only 34.3% of Kazakhstanis have access to the internet), has been blocked internally by the government.”
See below for the legal actions proposed in December 2012 by Kazakh courts.

2011

  • 13 January 2011 – Jimmy Wales and Cherie Blair (Tony Blair’s wife) together cut a ceremonial cake to celebrate Wikipedia’s 10th Anniversary. Also in attendance, Lord Peter Mandelson. (Note that Tony Blair Associates and Lord Mandelson have each developed lucrative consulting contracts with the Kazakhstan government.)
  • 20 February 2011 – Radio Free Europe reports on tests for electoral candidates to prove proficiency in the state language, Kazakh. “Anyone with his or her eyes on the presidency – to be decided in snap elections on April 3 – must prove their proficiency in the state language: Kazakh. Potential candidates must pass a three-part test that includes writing an essay, reading a text in Kazakh aloud, and delivering a 15-minute speech. The tests are administered and topics chosen by a specially appointed commission of five members”. “Many have … suggested the language test, introduced in the 1990s, could be merely a tool for longstanding President Nursultan Nazarbayev to keep potential rivals at bay. Indeed, two potential candidates have already fallen victim.” “According to official statistics, of the country’s 16 million people, less than half the adult population is fully fluent in Kazakh. More than 5 million don’t speak any Kazakh at all, and about 1 million people have only basic knowledge.” “By contrast, official statistics estimate that 94.4 percent of the population speaks Russian and that nearly 85 percent of people older than 15 can speak, read, and write Russian — cementing its status as the country’s lingua franca.” “The examiners say the test is strictly about language, not politics.” “Nazarbayev said recently the number of Kazakh-language schools is steadily rising. He said some 25,000 children from non-Kazakh families have enrolled in Kazakh schools.”
  • 8 March 2011 – Nartay Ashim creates the User:Ashina account on Kazakh Wikipedia. Over the following weeks, a slew of new material, largely taken verbatim from Kazakhstan’s state-published national encyclopedia, is transferred to the Kazakh Wikipedia.
  • 19 March 2011 – Jimmy Wales infringes on Wikipedia’s own guidelines not to directly edit articles where one may have a conflict of interest, by removing text regarding speculation that his friend Cherie Blair (Tony Blair’s wife) could have become a Labour peer in the House of Lords. Wales deleted a reliable source to that effect.
  • 25 March 2011 – Nartay Ashim (User:Ashina on Kazakh Wikipediaregisters the wikibilim.kz domain. A letter from Kazakh Encyclopedia is addressed to Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (see 11 May 2011, below).
  • April 2011 – According to Rauan Kenzhekhanuly, “In April 2011, the first meeting of Kazakh Wikipidians was held in Almaty (Kazakhstan) where Local Chapter creation issue had been discussed.”
  • 18 April 2011 – Rianovosti reports about Nazarbayev’s prediction that Kazakh would soon replace Russian as the main language. Kazakh is the state language, but it is less widely spoken than Russian. “We would like 100% of those who will start learning Kazakh language in the first class to be able to speak Kazakh. I am sure this will happen,” Nazarbayev said at a meeting of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan.
  • 20 April 2011 – OSCE reports about training courses on using the Internet and new media tools for Kazakh-language journalists which began in Shymkent in southern Kazakhstan. On the same day, Voice of Russia interviews Dmitry Kosyrev of the RIA News Agency in Moscow about the transition to the Kazakh language. “Practice shows that the wishes of the national leadership is one thing, and reality is something else.”
  • 26 April 2011 – An IP address, 89.106.238.41, edits the Wikimedia Meta project to say, “This page is dedicated for the discussion of the chapter Wikimedia Kazakhstan. The chapter would be created for enthusiastic people who are interested in developing Wikimedia projects in Kazakh (Qazaq), Russian and English languages.” User names of participants are provided: Ashina, Alash, and Rauank. Rauan Kenzhekhanuly is an exceptional young man who has risen far in the Khazak administration. He graduated from Almaty University in 2001, specialising in International Relations, then worked as head of the Khabar bureau in Moscow, an official media outlet. He was first secretary (press secretary) in the Kazakhstan embassy in Russia for a year, then served for three years as a policy advisor to the governor of the Mangystau region, where troubles would later flare up between striking oil workers and the police. For his services to the state he was awarded a medal in 2008 by President Nazarbayev himself. In 2010/2011 he was a fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, which was where he says he first began to develop an interest in Wikipedia.
  • 28 April 2011 – Kazakh Wikipedians put up a page on Wikimedia Meta calling for the formation of a Wikimedia Chapter in Kazakhstan. (Quote above is from that page.)
  • 4 May 2011 – The registration of WikiBilim Public Foundation (per Wikimedia Meta page) takes place.
  • 10 May 2011 – Samuel Klein, a trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation, asks how he might assist in automating the transfer of all 15 volumes of the state-published Kazakh Encyclopedia to the Wikimedia Foundation’s Kazakh Wikipedia.
  • 11 May 2011 – A copy of the 25 March 2011 letter from the state-published Kazakh Encyclopedia to the Wikimedia Foundation is published. This letter was said to be needed to release state-copyrighted encyclopedia content onto the Kazakh Wikipedia housed on Wikimedia Foundation servers.
  • 20 May 2011 – The Kazakh National Encyclopedia signs an agreement to provide its state-published content to Wikimedia Foundation under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 license.
  • 30 May 2011 – User:Sanzhar Kenzhekhan creates an English Wikipedia user page with ‘Мен Wikipedia Kazakhstan жобсысның қатысушысымын. I am a Wikipedia Kazakhstan contributor.’
  • 1 June 2011 – According to statements made on Wikimedia Meta, Nokia Kazakhstan signs an agreement to sponsor a Wikipedia article writing contest (awarding mobile phones to winning writers).
  • 8 June 2011 – According to the Wikimedia Meta page, WikiBilim signs a Trademark License Agreement with Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
  • 16 June 2011 – Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees Chair, Ting Chen, visits Almaty, Kazakhstan. On a Wikimedia Meta page, WikiBilim indicates it received a letter of support from the CEO of the Samruk-Kazyna Foundation, providing financial sponsorship to WikiBilim (including laptops for winning participants in the Wikipedia article writing contest). WikiBilim conducts a press conference (with participation of Ting Chen, Murat Abenov (member of Kazakhstan parliament and future Deputy Minister of Education and Science), Bauyrzhan Zhakyp (Chief Editor of the government-published Kazakh Encyclopedia), and A. Tutykin (Deputy Head of Kazcontent JSC).
“Ting Chen of the Wikimedia Foundation attending the press conference said that ‘the Foundation is considering launching a regional office in Kazakhstan. Altogether, there are a total of 30 representation offices. I believe Kazakhstan stands all chances to be home to one,’ he said.”
  • 17 June 2011 – News outlets report on the previous day’s press conference that announced WikiBilim’s expansion of the Kazakh Wikipedia. The Wikimedia Foundation’s board Chair, Ting Chen, is said to have participated in the press conference.
  • 20 June 2011 – WikiBilim indicates that it started a summer practice with the International IT University. WikiBilim provided a tutorial on how to contribute to Wikipedia.
  • 23 June 2011 – Another media outlet reports on the WikiBilim press conference.
“‘Kazaksha Wikipedia’ is a project launched in Kazakhstan to develop the Kazakh section of the free public universal multilingual internet encyclopedia Wikipedia. It was initiated and is sponsored by JSC ‘National Welfare Fund ‘Samruk-Kazyna’ and Nokia, administrated by the public fund Wikibilim with the assistance from Wikimedia Foundation (USA), its partners are ‘Kazakh encyclopedia’ and JSC ‘KazContent’. […] [The article goes on to quote Kazakhstani MP Murat Abenov:] Only 25 000 [Wikipedia] articles are in Kazakh, 15 000 of them – in the last month. This is the project we really need and expect a lot from. After we raised this issue in the parliament, we are getting support from the government, and it is very important that involved is the public fund Wikibilim, purpose-organized by Kazakhstani activists of Wikipedia at the initiative and for the money of Samruk-Kazyna.” [emphasis added]
  • 13 July 2011 – Jimmy Wales infringes on Wikipedia’s own guidelines not to directly edit articles where one may have a conflict of interest, by removing text regarding his friend Tony Blair. (Tony Blair Associates has deep business ties with the Kazakhstan government.) Minutes later, Wales explains his editing on the Talk page of the article, which should have happened first, and then allowed for discussion for someone else (without a conflict of interest) to edit the article.
  • 4–7 August 2011 – A Wikimedia Meta page states that the WikiBilim team participated in the Wikimania 2011 conference in Haifa, Israel. A new “Wikipedian of the year” award was created and bestowed by Jimmy Wales on Rauan Kenzhekhanuly, the head of WikiBilim. Tengri News reports:
“Jimmy also announced the creation of an annual award—Global Wikipedian of the Year. This was given to Rauan Kenzhekhanuly of Kazakh Wikipedia and consisted of a $5,000 award to Wikibilim, the chapter in Kazakhstan, to pay travel expenses to Wikimania next year. This would be presented to Kenzhekhanuly at a ceremony in Kazakhstan with the country’s prime minister Karim Massimov.”
  • 15 August 2011 – Jimmy Wales speaks on behalf of and trains fellows at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Blair’s for-profit consulting firm has close ties with the Kazakhstan government.
  • 27 August 2011 – An IP belonging to Digital TV in Almaty, Kazakhstan, states that the prime minister of Kazakhstan, Karim Massimov, had had a conversation about the development of the Kazakh Wikipedia with Jimmy Wales “during the last Davos summit”. (However, this statement would be retracted in December 2012.) The IP also adds, amongst other things, that the “National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan provides content and quality review process”, that the “Ministry of Education and Science provides us organizational support to involve Kazakhstan universities and colleges to Wikimedia projects” and that the “Ministry of Communication and Information provides organizational support to involve IT companies and universities as well as traditional media support.” Two minutes later, User:Ashina, using a very similar Digital TV IP address from Almaty, Kazakhstan, signs a comment stating that answers to the outstanding questions have now been provided.
  • 3 October 2011 – Eurasianet reports on the Kazakhstan language debate: “One of the most emotive issues on Kazakhstan’s political agenda – language rights – brought Kazakh speakers out to rally in Almaty on October 2.” “Around 1,500 protestors gathered with official permission in the country’s financial capital demanding legal changes to the status of Russian – which detractors say undermines the position of Kazakh.” “Mukhtar Shakhanov, poet and head of the Memlekettik Til (State Language) movement, is spearheading calls to change the constitution, in which Russian is protected by a clause allowing its use ‘equally with Kazakh in state bodies.'”
  • 20 October 2011 – Nartay Ashim puts up a request for a grant to Wikimedia Kazakhstan to host a conference (already scheduled and in preparation at that time). Despite the fact that the event is scheduled for less than a month away and the fact that Wikimedia Kazakhstan does not appear to be a formally recognized chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, the request is granted.

Quoting from the talk page:

Apparently, Kazakh Government supports Wikipedia. Do you expect any contributions from it and any other sponsors?–Victoria 08:55, 22 October 2011 (UTC) Yes, our Government supports us and Wikimedia movement. Particularly, they provide wide media coverage of the event and for whole project. Also they agreed to provide us with transportation to commute within the city. Besides thanks to their support we are running wiki-contest for 100 article (each participant have to write 100 articles) and for Featured article. First 100 editors who write 100 articles will get laptop from Samruk-Kazyna National Foundation ([1]. Another 50 active editors will get phones from NOKIA Kazakhstan. Also representative of the Ministry of communication and information and one MP willing to join us during the conference to give a talk.–Rauank 06:42, 26 October 2011 (UTC)”

  • 26 October 2011 – User:Ashina (Nartay Ashim) creates Rauan Kenzhekhanuly’s Wikipedia user page.
  • 26 October 2011 – The Telegraph reports: “Oil rich dictator of Kazakhstan recruits Tony Blair to help win Nobel peace prize”. The services of Alastair Campbell were retained as well. The deal is later said to be worth $13 million.
  • 31 October 2011 – according to the Independent, a new law, rushed through the country’s parliament and announced by Mr Nazarbayev, forbids prayer rooms inside state buildings, orders all religious groups to re-register or face liquidation through the courts, bans foreigners from setting up faith groups, and severely limits where religious literature can be bought. “For Mr Blair – who set up his eponymous foundation [The Tony Blair Faith Foundation] after leaving Downing Street to promote religion as “a powerful force for good in the modern world” – the timing of the law is embarrassing and piles on the pressure to explain the exact nature of his business dealings with the regime.”
  • 7 November 2011 – Sanzhar Kenzhekhan creates an English Wikipedia page for “WikiBilim public fundation – a nonprofit organization that was created with accordence to the laws of Kazakhstan Republic for development and enrichment of the Kazakh internet content in Kazakh language”. The page goes on to say:
“The WikiBilim started negotiations with Wikipedia Foundation Inc. in the begining of May 2011. On May 16th of 2011 the Wikibilim announced itself as an official representer of the Wikipedia in Kazakhstan during the press conference dedicated to the Wikipedia Kazakhstan. The chairman of Wikipedia Mr. Ting Chen himself came to support the Wikipedia Kazakhstan. Moreover, a duputy of Kazakh Parliament Mr. Murat Abenov, chair of the Kazakh National Encyclopedia Mr. Bauyrzhan Zhaqyp, and VP of the Kazcontent participated on the press conference. At the conference Mr. Ting Chen announced that Wikimedia Foundation Inc. supports WikiBilim as an official representer of Wikipedia in Kazakhstan and appreciates development attempts of Kazakh Wikipedia.” [emphasis added]
  • 21 December 21 2011 – Eurasianet reports on violence that broke out in Zhanaozen’s main square on the morning of 16 December. Reportedly 99 strikers were admitted to Zhanaozen’s hospital with sustained gunshot wounds. The official injury toll stands at 110; the death toll is 14 in Zhanaozen, plus one shot when protests spread to nearby Shetpe. Officials blamed ricocheting bullets, saying police fired into the air and at the ground in self-defense after an aggressive crowd attacked. However, a video posted on YouTube on 20 December presents a stark challenge to the official version: it shows riot police advancing on unarmed protestors (some throwing rocks) then opening fire, leaving one demonstrator prone on the ground. Another hops away injured; officers beat a third with truncheons.
  • 23 December 2011 – The weblog of Creative Commons (where Jimmy Wales is a board member) announces new affiliates in Kazakhstan and Rwanda. The entry describes WikiBilim as “a non-profit organisation which also operates as the local representative of Wikimedia. Wikibilim in turn is supported by the Government of Kazakhstan and personally by the Prime-Minister Mr. Karim Masimov.” [emphasis added]

2012

  • 10 January 2012 – A Wikipedia editor “TBFF” edits the English Wikipedia article about the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Jimmy Wales has stated that he has been “informally advising (as a volunteer only) the Tony Blair Faith Foundation on their Internet strategy”. Some of the edits could be described as white-washing. The account is soon blocked on the premise that it represents the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
  • 18 January 2012 – Eurasianet reports on the substantial sums that the government of Kazakhstan is spending on global top-tier public relations firms, “striving to shape an image as a modern, open and investment-friendly nation”. They also uncover evidence that these firms are using Wikipedia. “According to the US government’s Foreign Agents Registration Act database, Kazakhstan, via its embassy in London, hired BGR Gabara to provide “relevant outreach to government officials, news outlets, and other individuals with the United States, as directed by the Embassy of Kazakhstan in London, United Kingdom.” From last April 1 through the end of 2011, BGR Gabara paid BGR Government Affairs, a Delaware registered company, $45,000 per month for “assistance.” The monthly rate that the Kazakhstani government paid BGR Gabara cannot be independently determined.
  • 7 March 2012 – Jimmy Wales encounters a Wikipedia editor who is skeptical of the evolving stated mission of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, and Wales admonishes the editor to “take a warm and loving attitude, rather than hostility” when dealing with possible conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia.
  • 20–21 April 2012 – The Turkic Wikimedia Conference, funded in part by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation, takes place in Almaty, Khazakhstan. It includes a welcome speech from Murat Abenov, a member of Kazakhstan’s parliament.
  • 16 May 2012 – BBC Asia reports “Abuse claims swamp Kazakh oil riot trial”, about the trial of 37 people charged with “organising or supporting mass unrest” in Zhanaozen last December. Most of the accused are former oil workers.
Many of the defendants spoke of abuse by police and security service officers. Some claimed they were doused with cold water while naked, or threatened with rape.
Muqan Toykeliev, 60, told the court he was threatened with being beaten in order to give a false statement.
“I was repeatedly suffocated with a plastic bag… you cannot imagine how it feels when there is not enough air to breath, my eyes were popping out,” 46-year-old Roza Tuletayeva, a former oil worker, told the court on 16 April.
“They hung me by my hair… There were other things done to me but I am too ashamed to talk about it here.”
  • 10 July 2012 – During an interview on the PBS News Hour, Wales comments that “The Kazakh Wikipedia is just booming, and doing great. That’s very exciting.”
  • 19 July 2012 – Kazakh media outlet Caspionet News reports that “Kazakhstan has taken a leading position in the development of national divisions at Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that is run by enthusiasts around the world. Just like last year, the merits of Kazakhstan, were awarded at the Wikimania conference, which took place in Washington DC. The ‘Kazakh Wikipedia’ project is supported by the government of Kazakhstan. […] Being impressed by the achievements of Kazakhstan in the development of Wikipedia its founder Jimmy Wales announced his intention to visit our country. The Kazakhstan Ambassador to the US Yerlan Idrissov has already handed over an official invitation to Mr. Wales. Having accepted the invitation, Jimmy Wales thanked the Kazakh government for creating conditions for significant achievements in the development of the Kazakh language Wikipedia.[emphasis added] The article is characteristic of the upbeat coverage in the Kazakh state press, and on Kazakh government websites.
  • 16 August 2012 – Eurasianet reports that Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the unregistered Alga! party and a vocal critic of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, is to go on trial in Aktau in western Kazakhstan. The other two defendants are Serik Sapargaly, an activist from the People’s Front political alliance, and Akzhanat Aminov, a former oil worker from Zhanaozen who was convicted last summer of leading an illegal strike.
  • 23 September 2012 – The Sunday Times reports that the value of Tony Blair’s consultancy deal with the Kazakh regime has doubled, and is now worth $26 million. It says that critics accuse Blair of “whitewashing” the dictator’s image and human rights record.
  • 6 October 2012 – Jimmy Wales marries Kate Garvey, Tony Blair’s former diary secretary. It is Wales’ third marriage. Tony and Cherie Blair attend the ceremony, as do Alastair Campbell (who “plays the couple out of the church with his bagpipes”) and Peter Mandelson. (Tony Blair Associates has deep business ties with the Kazakhstan government, as does Campbell, and Mandelson has spoken at events organised by Kazakh state fund Samruk-Kazyna, which finances the Kazakh Wikipedia effort.)
  • 8 October 2012 – West Kazakhstan Today reports that “the Criminal Court of the Mangistau Oblast found guilty Vladimir Kozlov, the leader of the unregistered opposition party ‘Alga!’, and his associates Akzhanat Aminov and Serik Sapargali. Opposition activist Kozlov [was] sentenced to 7.5 years of imprisonment and his associates Aminov and Sapargali received 3 years of suspended sentences. The charges relate to violence in mid-December in the town of Zhanaozen between striking workers and police. At least 14 people died when police opened fire on rioters. Property belonging to Alga is also to be confiscated.”
  • 23 November 2012 – RT reports that “Kazakhstan sues Google, Twitter and Facebook“.
“Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LiveJournal are among the defendants in a lawsuit filed by Kazakh prosecutors seeking to shut down some opposition media outlets in the republic. The prosecutors are demanding the websites stop publishing material from Kazakh opposition sources. ‘The company Google is a defendant. I don’t know if they know it or not, but they are on trial and they need to present their comment on this lawsuit,’ Sergey Utkin, a lawyer for information portal Respublika (Republic) told journalists on Friday.”
Tengri News later explains, quoting representative of Kazakhstan General Prosecutor’s office Nurdaulet Suindikov, that Google, Facebook and Twitter are mentioned in the lawsuits only in relation to certain pages and blogs mirroring Respublika and Vzglyad. If the court decides to ban distribution of the Respublika newspaper, the administration of Facebook will be requested to delete or block the publication’s page, but access to Facebook itself will not be blocked. He says that this case sets a precedent for Kazakhstan’s law-enforcement practice.
  • 25 November 2012 – The Daily Mail reports: “Kazakhstan dictator axes paper critical of Blair’s £8 million job as adviser.
  • 26 November 2012 – Tony Blair and Jimmy Wales each present comments (1:05:40), seated next to each other before an assembled crowd gathered for the 3rd annual Faith Shorts award ceremony, presented by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Wales speaks of having a “place” in the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s work.
  • 30 November 2012 – Eurasianet reports that President Nursultan Nazarbayev announces that the “First President’s Day” will take place on 1 December. The day will celebrate his achievements by slogans such as “One Fatherland, one Fate, one Leader of the Nation”, and by giant billboards in Kazakhstan streets featuring his smiling face. Nazarbayev University will host Nazarbayev readings discussing his “strategic vision and outstanding leadership.” Babies born on that day will be awarded romper suits with a holiday logo.
  • 12 December 2012 – Interfax reports that “the Bostandyk Almaty district court banned K-Plus opposition TV channel and blocked the related Internet web-sites: www.kplus-tv.net and www.kplus-tv.kaz.net”.
  • 19 December 2012 – Kazakh media outlet Tengri News reports that Jimmy Wales is expected to visit Kazakhstan in 2013, according to Rauan Kenzhekhanuly, founder of WikiBilim Foundation.
“‘We expected Jimmy Wales to come this year. Unfortunately, due to his busy schedule the visit has been postponed a few times. Another reason for postponement was our desire to prepare an interesting program. A couple of days ago we talked to Mr. Wales and he confirmed once again that he would visit Kazakhstan in 2013′, Mr. Kenzhekhanuly said. According to him, Mr. Wales lauded the dynamic development of the Kazakh-language Wikipedia and promised to deliver some public lectures on the resource and on the Internet development trends.”
  • 20 December 2012 – Wikipedians raise questions about Kazakhstan government support for the Kazakh Wikipedia on Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia talk page.
  • 20 December 2012 – Tokbergen Abiyev , journalist working at Zakon i Pravosudiye (Kazakh: Закон и правосудие), a Kazakh newspaper based in Almaty investigating and publicizing government corruption, disappears shortly after announcing a press conference for the next morning. (Update: Abiyev has since reappeared. It is reported that he confessed faking his own disappearance because he wanted to draw attention to himself.)
  • 21 December 2012 – Jimmy Wales sneakily deletes a post by Andreas Kolbe (User:Jayen466) about Kazakh PR editing, without noting so in the edit summary. Another Wikipedian restores the comment, thinking the deletion was accidental: “I think this got overwritten by accident; restoring comment by Jayen466″. Jimmy Wales then deletes it again: “Removing comment – I’m not interested in talking to you Andreas, after the way you have behaved”.
    The deleted comment read: “Note figures given here: [2]. It seems to have been much more than 30m Tenge (though the dollar sign is clearly wrong: I believe these higher amounts for 2011 and 2012 are Tenge amounts). Also note reports earlier this year that Kazakh PR agents are suspected of having manipulated Wikipedia entries on Kazakhstan: [3] The Kazakhstan article does not even mention the word “dictator[ship]” … wow. Just wow. Andreas JN466 17:00, 21 December 2012 (UTC)
  • 21 December 2012 – Contradicting earlier accounts, Jimmy Wales states,
“The Wikimedia Foundation has zero collaboration with the government of Kazakhstan. Wikibilim is a totally independent organization. And it is absolutely wrong to say that I am ‘helping the Kazakh regime whitewash its image’. I am a firm and strong critic. At the same time, I’m excited by the work of volunteers, and I believe – very strongly – that an open and independent Wikipedia will be the death knell for tyranny in places like Kazakhstan. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it is absolutely silly to suggest that I’m in any way actively supporting tyrants.–Jimbo Wales (talk) 15:33, 21 December 2012 (UTC)” [emphasis added]
  • 21 December 2012 – Jimmy Wales asks Andreas Kolbe, who had mentioned both Blair’s business ties with Kazakhstan and Wales’ recent marriage to Blair’s former diary secretary in the discussion, to stay off his talk page:
“I’ve had enough of you. I’ll delete anything you post there, and if you persist, I’ll ask others to help delete anything you post there. –Jimbo Wales (talk) 17:19, 21 December 2012 (UTC)”
  • 21 December 2012 – Interfax reports that the Vzglyad opposition newspaper has been closed down by a Kazakh court:
“The Prosecutor’s Office won its lawsuit against the Vzglayd opposition newspaper and its online outlets over propagating ‘extremist ideas’. […] As reported, the Almaty prosecutors had filed a lawsuit seeking the closure of a ban on the dissemination on the territory of Kazakhstan of eight newspapers and 23 Internet publications published by the media organization Respublika, the newspaper Vzglyad and its Internet publications, and the foreign television channels K+ and Stan-TV and their Internet sites.”
  • 23 December 2012 – An Examiner article by Wikipedia critic and Wikipediocracy member Gregory Kohs appears, “Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales denies Kazakhstan connection”, while the same day a separately-written Wikipediocracy blog post entitled  “Jimmy Wales in: The Dictator and I” is published. Jimmy Wales removes further comments from his talk page. A separate discussion of the controversy begins on Quora: “Wikipedia: Why does it appear that Wikipedia’s co-founder is covering for Kazakhstan’s government manipulation of Wikipedia?”. Jimmy Wales, who says he is “an advisor to and (very small) investor in Quora”, publicly states, “I’m hopeful that this question will just be deleted soon. If someone wants to ask me an honest question, rather than trolling, I’m always happy to answer. I would recommend: ‘What does Jimmy Wales have to say about censorship in Kazakhstan?'” (The following day, his wish is fulfilled with Quora’s removal of the question that bothered their investor Wales, and Wales promotes a question about what he is doing about censorship in Kazakhstan to over 18,000 people; see below.)
  • 24 December 2012 – The Telegraph and The Daily Mail report on the controversy. The Telegraph’s article is titled, “Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales bans discussion of Tony Blair friendship”, while The Daily Mail call theirs, “‘Don’t mention my friendship with Tony Blair!’ Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales bans discussion of former PM in new controversy over Kazakh links.” The Telegraph article is retitled “Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales restricts discussion of Tony Blair friendship” later that day, while the Daily Mail article disappears altogether on 27 December 2012.
  • 24 December 2012 – Comment by WikiBilim on the Examiner article: “We are working on several projects with our partners. Some of them were mentioned in the article. They are Wikimedia Foundation, Open Society Foundation, TED, Samruk-Kazyna, Nokia, AltynKyran Foundation, Beeline, Kazakh Encyclopedia”. Yet Jimmy Wales said only days before, “The Wikimedia Foundation has zero collaboration with the government of Kazakhstan. Wikibilim is a totally independent organization.”
  • 24 December 2012 The Quora discussion is “removed” (it remains accessible via direct URL, but no longer shows up in searches), and Jimmy Wales himself asks an alternative question with the title “What is Jimmy Wales doing about freedom of speech in Kazakhstan?” He then promotes the new question to 18,140 Quora users. Andreas Kolbe responds to Jimmy Wales on Quora, who complains of a “dishonest smear campaign”. Kolbe writes:
“Well, but they do have control of the Kazakh Wikipedia, according to both the government’s and WikiBilim’s sources. Two ministries are coordinating the effort, their National Academy does a content review, and the president’s son-in-law awards laptops to named (not anonymous) editors on the basis of whether they have written good articles. All of this in a country where newspapers are shut down, and journalists attacked. See what the Committee to Protect Journalists have to say on Kazakhstan.”
  • 25 December 2012 – Rauan Kenzhekhanuly, “co-founder of WikiBilim foundation”, posts a statement from WikiBilim to Jimmy’s talk page, saying that their goal is the well-being of the Kazakh language. He appeals to the belief in the power of technology and the power of the free knowledge and the Internet “as a great tool to support native culture, mother tongue and modernization of the country we live in”. He claims that “government representatives never intervene in our projects with any conditions such as censoring or editing articles”. “WikiBilim deeply regrets that this situation caused inconvenience to our supporter and great friend Mr. Jimmy Wales. From the very beginning he has been supporting us in bringing Wikipedia culture and its values in Kazakh society”.
  • 25 December 2012 – The Daily Dot publishes an article titled “Wikipedia’s odd relationship with the Kazakh dictatorship“. It states that “Rauan Kenzhekhanuly is a Kazakh government man through and through. The former first secretary at the country’s Russian embassy also served as Moscow Bureau chief for the National TV Agency, a government propaganda arm launched by the daughter of Kazakh’s all-powerful president-cum-dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev”, adding that WikiBilim is “backed financially by the state’s sovereign oil wealth fund, which is run by none other than President Nazarbayev’s son-in-law.”
  • 27 December 2012 – Two articles by Myles G. Smith appear, critiquing the content of the Kazakh Wikipedia: “On Kazakh-language Wikipedia, Crowdsourcing Meets Crowd Mentality” (Registan) and “Kazakhstan Wikipedia Controversy Raises Questions About the Crowd” (Eurasianet).
  • 27 December 2012 – Ipsnews reports on “an unprecedented media crackdown that will leave it virtually without any opposition newspapers for the first time in its 21-year history as an independent nation.” “Last week, agents of the KNB secret police swarmed the offices of Respublika, a weekly with a strong focus on economic analysis and investigative reporting on corruption that was founded in 2000, when the country’s economic boom began. They confiscated much of the equipment and closed the office.” “A court found the paper guilty of “extremism” and banned its dissemination, even online, its managing editor, Tatyana Trubacheva, told IPS in a Skype interview Wednesday. The paper has a Facebook page and it is unclear how the government could close that, she added.”
  • 28 December 2012 – IP 50.144.0.96 posts to Wales’ talk page: “Kazakh journalist is missing” – “we who are very relieved that the Wikimedia Foundation is making cooperation with the Kazakh Wikipedia hope that you will use your great persuasion powers and extensive contacts with PR agencies and governmental leaders to help call for the finding and safe return of Tokbergen Abiyev, who has been missing now for over a week.”
  • 28 December 2012 – According to Reporters Without Borders, “Kazakhstan’s leading opposition media have all been banned as ‘extremist’ in the past month in response to a request by the prosecutor-general’s office […]. ‘This unprecedented blow to pluralism is the result of an outrageous misuse of the Kazakh justice system,’ Reporters Without Borders said. ‘Reduced to a tool of repression, the courts no longer even try to maintain appearances, flouting defence rights, holding summary hearings and violating procedure. President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s administration is in the process of completing its transformation into an extremely authoritarian regime. This calls for a strong response from the international community.'”
  • 29 December 2012 (by e-mail) – WikiBilim deny any meeting between Jimmy Wales and Karim Massimov ever happened. Edward Buckner raises the issue on Quora. Jimmy Wales, responding at the Quora threaddenies ever having met Massimow, while conceding that he had “had a casual meeting with someone from his office”, that he “did not get to meet with any top officials”, and adds that he has had “various other casual or indirect contacts with Kazakhs over the years, but never a formal meeting with the President, the Prime Minister, or any ministers there.” He says on Quora, “That claim in a discussion page was introduced by an ip number. It isn’t true. I have never met Karim Massimov.” Edward Buckner comments on Quora, mentioning WikiBilim’s denial of the meeting, and says, “There is still a mystery. Who was the IP number who made that [claim]?” Wales calls the Quora comment “a paranoid bit of nonsense”.
  • 30 December 2012 (by e-mail) – WikiBilim now admit that they did make the claim about Wales and Massimov meeting at a Davos event. The meeting was actually between Wales and a deputation sent by the Prime Minister.
  • 30 December 2012 (by e-mail) – WikiBilim say that material on the Kazakh Wikipedia will not be censored, since it is up to the “community” to decide what information will be included. However, all information must be reliably sourced, and opposition media will not be considered reliable sources.

2013

  • 3 January 2013 – Jimmy Wales deletes a question about his Kazakhstan-related self-promotion on Quora from his talk page.

Image credit: Original work courtesy of Krustilu Productions, modified from an original found on Wikimedia Commons

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