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Opposition newspaper sued for alleged defamation of deceased poet and national hero

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - The "Svoboda slova" newspaper and one of its journalists, Yerbol Kurmabayev, are facing a lawsuit filed by three private citizens - Almaz Dzhambulov, Zhenis Zhambylov and Katshibek Abdykalykova - who are seeking 800 million tenge (approx. US$6.5 million) in damages for "heavy sufferings." In their lawsuit based on "protection of the honour, dignity and reputation from insult and moral suffering," the plaintiffs, calling themselves descendants of national poet Dzhambul Dzhabayev and a national hero of Kazakhstan, Karasai Batyr, claim that the journalist distorted Kazakh history and defamed both of them. The lawsuit followed the 25 January 2007 publication in "Svoboda slova" of an article in which the journalist reported that the historical role of both the poet and hero was exaggerated and mythologised.

"Protection of one's honour refers to personal non-property rights, which means that, according to national law, any citizen of Kazakhstan can bring a case in court with the aim of protecting one's honour and dignity rather than the honour and dignity of one's ancestors. None of the plaintiffs were actually mentioned in the article. However, there have been similar lawsuits in the legal practice of Kazakhstan that ended with court rulings in favour of the plaintiffs," said Adil Soz President Tamara Kaleyeva.

Furthermore, a local political party, True Ak Zhol, said in a statement that the "lawsuit is an attempt to exercise pressure on the independent press and its readers" by involving the newspaper in long court proceedings while Nurotan, the majority party in parliament's lower chamber, prepares for the possible dissolution of parliament in fall 2007 and ensuing elections.

"Svoboda slova" is an opposition newspaper with a circulation of 74,000 copies.

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