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Twenty-seven IFEX members call for investigation into brutal attacks on journalists

Adil Soz

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - The following is a joint letter signed by 27 IFEX members about recent brutal attacks on journalists in Kazakhstan:

Askhat Daulbayev
Prosecutor General of the Republic of Kazakhstan
State Office of the Prosecutor General
010000, Republic Kazakhstan,
Astana city, street Orynbor, 8 (the House of the ministries), entrance №2.

Fax: +7 7172 71 26 50
Email: Gp-rk (@) prokuror.kz

Kalmukhanbet Kasymov
Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Ministry of Internal Affairs
010000, Republic Kazakhstan,
Astana city, Av. Tauelsidyk, 1
Fax: +7 7172 714333

26 April 2012

Dear Prosecutor General Daulbayev and Minister Kasymov,

We the undersigned 27 freedom of expression organisations, members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), are deeply concerned about the increase in brutal attacks on outspoken journalists in Kazakhstan, and the impunity surrounding their cases.

We are particularly concerned by the recent near-fatal attack on Luqpan Akhmedyarov, a journalist with the weekly Uralskaya Nedelya, outside his home in the suburbs of the northwestern city of Uralsk on 19 April.

The journalist was attacked by five unidentified men who hit him on the back of the head, stabbed him several times and shot him with an air gun. Akhmedyarov was taken to the regional hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.

Akhmedyarov's colleagues believe this attack is linked to his professional and civic activities, as he is known for his critical reporting on subjects such as corruption and misuse of government funds. He has been the subject of several defamation lawsuits in recent years.

The attack against Akhmedyarov did not happen in isolation. There has been an increasing trend of attacks against journalists in Kazakhstan. On 25 February of this year, Adylet journalist Zharkynbek Seyitnbetuly was attacked in the southern city of Shymkent by an unidentified man who hit him on the head with an iron rod. The journalist was hospitalised and suffered a concussion.

The year 2011 also proved to be traumatic for many journalists. In June 2011, Alexander Baranov, a correspondent for the City Week newspaper in the northwestern city of Pavlodar, was attacked. On 27 October 2011 in the southwestern city of Aktau, four unidentified men used baseball bats and an air pistol to assault Orken Bisen and Asan Amilov, reporter and cameraman for the Internet-based opposition broadcaster Stan TV. It is believed the men were attacked in retaliation for their reporting on a local strike by oil and gas company workers. In the same month Aybanu Anarbaeva, a reporter for the TV channel Almaty, and cameraman Alfarabi Gusentsov, were beaten by security guards at the Car City shopping center in Almaty while on assignment.

Many crimes against journalists in Kazakhstan have remained unsolved. In cases where offenders were caught and brought to justice, they were never condemned under Article 155 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, on “interference with lawful professional activities of journalists." This article has never been used during the country's 21 years of independence.

The right of citizens to receive and distribute information freely and to exercise freedom of speech is an indispensable human right that is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan and also in international conventions ratified by Kazakhstan. These laws must not only be quoted, but aggressively implemented in defense of journalists who are helping citizens to exercise their right to access to information.

In light of the recent attacks on journalists in Kazakhstan, we are asking:

• That you, Kalmukhanbet Kasymov, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, take personal control of the investigation into the attack on Luqpan Akhmedyarov. There should not be impunity for such a crime.

• That you, Askhat Daulbaev, the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Kazakhstan, review cases of assault and attacks on journalists in order to determine whether the crimes were linked to the professional activities of the victims.

• That the government of Kazakhstan implement ratified international conventions that promote and protect freedom of expression.

Signed,

Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen/Alliance of Independent Journalists
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Committee to Protect Journalists
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Globe International Center
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey
Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety
Institute of Mass Information
International Press Institute
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Rights Agenda
Media Watch
Pacific Freedom Forum
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA
PEN International
Public Association "Journalists"
Reporters Without Borders
World Press Freedom Committee
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
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    Lukpan Akhmedyarov is known for his criticism of the authorities and prior to the attack had received several warnings from the public prosecutor's office and reported being followed.

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