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Media organisations express concern over seizure of newspaper's assets

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - On August 3, 2010, the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan and Adil Soz, the International Foundation for the Protection of Freedom of Speech, made a public statement regarding the recent developments in a criminal case against the "Central Asia Monitor", an independent newspaper based in Almaty, and the seizure of the newspaper's assets.

"Kazakh media organizations express concern over the seizure of the assets of 'Central Asia Monitor'," the statement says. "On July 16, 2010 the Bank of Development of Kazakhstan and six companies sued the 'Central Asia Monitor'. The plaintiffs asked the Specialized Interdistrict Economic Court of Almaty to protect their honor, dignity and business reputation and demanded that the newspaper pay KZT 350 million (approx. US$2.4 million) in moral damages."

The reason for this lawsuit was the publication by the newspaper of several critical stories under the pen name of Alan Beketov.

On July 19, the judge presiding over the Specialized Interdistrict Court of Almaty accepted the plaintiffs' claim and ordered the seizure of the newspaper's assets to ensure the paper's compliance with a court decision on the payment of damages.

"Media organizations of the Republic of Kazakhstan consider that the decision of the Specialized Interdistrict Court of Almaty violated freedom of speech and the right of journalists to distribute information freely as stipulated in the Kazakh law 'On Mass Media'. The seizure of all of the newspaper's movable and fixed assets will result in the blocking of the 'Central Asia Monitor' accounts and its suspension. This will entail the loss of readership which the newspaper worked to develop over a period of six years. Kazakh law stipulates that seizure of a defendant's property under a claim for compensation for moral damages should be imposed only when the court issues a verdict and determines the size of monetary compensation. We demand the release of the newspaper's assets in accordance with the law, and that the newspaper be given back the opportunity to continue its regular activities," the statement says.

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