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Journalist, two media executives arrested as political pressure on media increases

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an IPI press release:

IPI Says Political Pressure on Kazakh Media Organisations is Growing with the Arrest of Media Personnel

Vienna, 29 May 2007 - According to information provided to the International Press Institute (IPI), the pressure on the KTK television station and the Karavan weekly newspaper has increased in recent days after the authorities arrested two media executives and a journalist.

On 25 May, the authorities arrested Ruslan Zhemkov and Adil Sharipov, the Executive Director and General Administrator of the KTK television station, respectively. Both men have apparently not been informed of the reason for their arrest, and they were denied access to legal representation.

In addition, Ruslan Pryanikow, a photojournalist with the Karavan weekly newspaper, was arrested while taking a photograph of the building that houses the office of the Attorney General of Kazakhstan.

Aside from these arrests, it is now apparent that the Karavan newspaper was banned for three months for allegedly misusing its influence in the Nurbank scandal.

Rakhat Aliyev, the owner of KTK and Karavan, is no longer the Ambassador to Austria and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). A delegation, led by the deputy Attorney General and the deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, has arrived in Austria, apparently with the intention of taking the former Ambassador back to Kazakhstan to stand trial for his alleged involvement in a kidnapping.

Last week, the KTK and Karavan offices were closed by the authorities and journalists were held inside the building while police searched their homes, causing distress to the journalists' family members.

Commenting on the case, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said, "Whatever the alleged crimes of the media owner, they do not justify the closure of media organisations and the arrests of media executives and journalists. These actions are a further sign that the media situation is swiftly deteriorating in Kazakhstan."

"The Kazakhstan authorities cannot flout the rule of law and due process in their desire to pursue the media. Those arrested should be released immediately or, at the very least, informed of the reason for their arrest and provided access to legal representation," added Fritz.

"By acting in this way, the Kazakhstan government is doing great harm to its international reputation and I would call on the government of Kazakhstan to halt these blatant assaults on the media and to allow journalists to practice their profession free of harassment or intimidation."

IPI, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.

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