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Journalist, newspaper fined in two separate lawsuits over critical articles

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - Journalist Gennady Benditskiy and the newspaper he works for, "Vremya", have to pay a total of 1.7 million tenge (approx.US$14,000) to Justice Ministry officer Raikhan Useyev and lawyer Valeriy Alefirenko, following the courts' affirmation of their lawsuits.

On 29 June 2007, the Zhetesu district court in Almaty ordered "Vremya" and Benditskiy to pay 200,000 tenge (approx. US$1,650) in damages to Alefirenko, who had sued them over an 8 March article, entitled "Indescribable wealth: income not registered in the tax declaration", which he claimed violated his honor and dignity.

On 19 June, "Vremya" and Benditskiy received another court order obliging them to pay 1.5 million tenge (approx. US$12,300) in damages to Useyev, who had sued them over a 16 November 2006 article by Benditskiy entitled "Fact on the face". Useyev claimed the article contained falsehoods and should be retracted.

The court confirmed that the article contained false information, despite arguments and documents presented during the proceedings that proved the article to be accurate.

Adil Soz staff Yelena Malygina said, "Almost every journalist in Kazakhstan tries to find as many documents to verify their reports as much as possible for fear of prosecution. Moreover, in this particular case, 'Vremya' has a staff lawyer who checks the authenticity of all articles before publication. The court rulings were a surprise to us because all documents required to prove the authenticity of the contentious articles had been presented to the court."

Benditskiy is widely known in Kazakhstan for his critical reports.

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