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Critical journalist disappears in Almaty after receiving death threats; colleagues and family suspect foul play

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - Adil Soz has expressed its alarm over the disappearance of Oralgaisha Zhabaktaikyzy, a journalist with "Zakon I pravosudie" newspaper.

The journalist was last seen getting into a sport utility vehicle on 30 March 2007 by a friend.

According to another "Zakon I pravosudie" reporter in Almaty, Mukhit Iskakov, the journalist began receiving telephoned threats shortly after the publication of her 26 March report, entitled "Bloody chaos, or who backs the brothers Makhnovsty". In her report, the journalist investigated and analyzed the circumstances that led to a bloody conflict among local residents in Malovodnoye village, in southern Kazakhstan, revealing the names of those who started the conflict and their connections with the government and business. Iskakov said that the journalist bought a rifle after receiving a number of death threats demanding that she stop her critical reporting.

However, Zhabaktaikyzy's brother believes that threats against the journalist began long before the publication of that report, while she was working on another article in February 2007 about mines in Zhezkazgan, owned by the Kazakhmys company. In that article, she had reported on dangerous working conditions in the mines.

Zhabaktaikyzy's colleagues believe that the threats and her disappearance are related to her professional activities.

Her brother has reported her missing to police. Zhetysu District Interior Department, the City Interior Department of Almaty and the Ministry of Internal Affairs have initiated an investigation into her case. Her whereabouts are still not known.

Adil Soz has sent two statements to the Interior Ministry and the Office of the Prosecutor General, reporting the case and calling on them to monitor the investigation into the journalist's case.

The newspaper's management has not commented on the case.

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