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Journalist faces libel charges over article about beating of drug convict

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - Olga Ushakova, a journalist with "Ustinka Plus" newspaper in Ust-Kamenogorsk, eastern Kazakhstan, is facing libel charges under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan over a 15 September 2006 article. The charges stem from a complaint filed by Eugeniyi Nazarenko, convicted on 31 August 2006 to three years in prison for "possessing a large quantity of drugs."

In her article, the journalist reported that Nazarenko was brutally beaten by police officers while being held in a drunk tank.

The journalist presented to the court all the documents used in the criminal investigation and the final court orders in Nazarenko's case, which proved the article to be true.

"This was really strange to us because the journalist was in fact defending the interests and rights of Eugeniy Nazarenko. After this court case, journalists will hardly be willing to defend the rights of people," said Yelena Malygina, an Adil Soz staffer.

"The case is a consequence of the fact that legislation in Kazakhstan allows the prosecution of journalists. It is clearly unethical. However, there was one similar case before, where a foreigner from Canada, Adonis Derbas, sued journalist Gennady Benditskiy, who had been previously trying to defend his rights in his reports," said Malygina (see IFEX alert of 15 March 2006).

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