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Several opposition newspapers harassed by authorities

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - The International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech "Adil Soz" expresses its deep concern over the recent mass repression against independent media in Kazakhstan. Websites http://www.zonakz.net, http://www.geo.kz, http://www.kompromat.kz and internet radio station http://www.inkar.info remain blocked since 23 October 2007. The website http://www.kub.kz was removed from the Kazakh segment of the internet without justification (see IFEX alert of 30 October 2007).

On 30 October, officers of the tax commission and financial police came to the offices of a number of opposition newspapers: "Vzglyad.kz", "Respublika", "Delovoye obozreniya", "Dubl' 2" and "Svoboda slova" saying they received an order to start inspections at the newspapers' offices. Unlike the tax commission police who referred to the law "on operative-investigating activities", the financial police officers refused to show any permitting documents. "Vzglyad"'s staff and other journalists and human rights defenders who urgently arrived, prevented the financial police from seizing a computer where all the financial documentation was stored. "Respublika"'s staff were also asked to show all financial documents.

The same day, a printing office that used to print "Svoboda slova" newspaper suddenly decided to terminate its contract with the newspaper. The newspaper's next edition will probably not be printed. The printing office's management reported that fire-fighters recently visited the office to check if the premises met all the safety conditions.

All three newspapers carry out an independent news policy and have sought to cover a recently arisen conflict of interest between the political elites and the former ambassador of Kazakhstan to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the President's former son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev, in a broad and objective manner, giving a chance to cover both sides of the story.

Kazakhstan went through times of political fights that led to the closure of independent media outlets. The newspaper "Respublika" was closed down many times, but kept working under new names; its editor was threatened with prison and forced to leave Kazakhstan. Another newspaper, "Tas Zhargan," successor to the newspaper "Sol Dat", had also experienced many difficulties. Its publisher, Yermurat Bapi, was ordered by court to stop his publishing activities. The web-based "Zona.kz" was previously called "Navigator". There were many attempts to force the website to shut down but it remains operational.

The previous years brought the hope that the idea of imposing just one opinion if all independent media outlets were closed belonged to the past; the authorities learned how to respect the constitutional right of citizens to receive information and freedom to express their opinions and views.

Adil Soz is calling on the authorities to clarify the situation over the closed websites and other recent cases of intimidation and persecution against independent media outlets. This situation is unacceptable, especially in the wake of the OSCE decision on Kazakhstan's presidency in 2009.

We are calling on the journalists of Kazakhstan to express their professional solidarity and support to their colleagues.

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