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Another journalist killed in road accident - seventh since 2002

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has urged the Kazakh authorities not to come to any hasty conclusions about Saken Tauzhanov's death on 2 August 2007 and to do everything possible to clarify the circumstances. The authorities said the 37-year-old journalist, who wrote for three independent news websites, zonakz.net, dialog.kz and kub.kz, was run over by a truck.

"We wonder about the circumstances of this 'accident' as several opposition journalists have been killed in similar circumstances in recent years and Tauzhanov is the third so far this year," the press freedom organisation said. "The investigators should look at all the possibilities and not rush to the conclusion that it was an ordinary traffic accident. There are no grounds for claiming he was killed because of his work as a journalist, but there are no grounds for excluding the possibility either."

The first journalist to be killed in a road accident in recent years was Aleksei Pougaev, joint editor of the opposition website Eurasia, who was knocked down by a car on 4 January 2002. He had written many critical stories about President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his associates.

Nuri Muftah, a correspondent for the opposition newspaper "Respublika 2000" and editor of the weekly "Altyn Gasyr" who had often written about government corruption, was run over by a bus on 17 November 2002 as he was returning from doing a story on women in the southern city of Shymkent. The police said it was an accident but some witnesses said he was pushed. While in Shymkent, he had been attacked by three men.

Askhat Sharipzhanov of the online newspaper "Navigator" ( http://navi.kz ) died in an Almaty hospital on 21 July 2004, five days after being run over by a car just after interviewing Altynbek Sarsenbayev, the new information minister, and Zamanbek Nurkadilov, a leading member of the opposition. The driver, Kanat Kalzhanov, was sentenced to three and a half years of forced labour on 28 December 2004, but the trial shed no light on unexplained aspects of the case (see IFEX alerts of 4 January 2005 and 20 July 2004).

Yuri Baev, the editor of the daily "Talap", was also knocked down by a car in 2004 while investigating kickbacks in the oil industry.

Batyrkhan Darimbet, the editor of the opposition weekly "Azat" who was also a reporter for Radio Azatyk and a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, died in hospital on 7 June 2005, six days after a car crashed into his jeep near Taraz. He had gone there to open a local branch of Alga, an opposition group he set up after the Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK) was banned.

CTC television reporter Yuri Halikov, 28, was killed on 7 July 2007 when his car crashed as he and cameraman Matvey Shestakov were driving to Priozersk to do a report on single-parent families. Tolegen Kibatov, a journalist with the TV station Otyrar, was also killed in a traffic accident this year.

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