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Under official pressure, Kazakh broadcaster closes

The following is a CPJ blog post:
By Muzaffar Suleymanov/CPJ Europe and Central Asia Research Associate

A blocked website; reporting equipment confiscated; a newsroom sealed; and reporters denied information from state agencies: these things together spelled the end of, a local, independent Internet-based broadcaster which for two years had tirelessly reported on developments in Kazakhstan. "We are forced to shut down the newsroom," Bauyrzhan Musirov, owner of parent Stan Production Company, said at a press conference Wednesday, 13 March 2013, in Almaty, Kazakhstan's main city. had long criticized national and municipal authorities, but the final straw for the repressive government was apparently an oil workers' strike and its brutal suppression by police in the western town of Zhanaozen in December, 2011. In defiance of national laws and a public commitment to protect and advance human rights at home and abroad--Kazakhstan was elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council in November, 2012--the government fiercely retaliated against media outlets who exposed its repressive activity. Authorities launched a fierce crackdown against the media just after the Zhanaozen clashes, and renewed the battle around the first anniversary of their reporting on the violence. After a judicial campaign of just a few weeks, all the leading independent media--newspapers Respublika and Vzglyad, and broadcasters K-Plus and, were ordered blocked and shutdown in late December on fabricated charges of extremism.

Elina Zhdanova, founder of Stan Production, told CPJ that prosecution of the broadcaster was unjust and illogical from beginning to end. First, she said, authorities arbitrarily branded the outlets extremist in a verdict handed to Vladimir Kozlov, an opposition activist jailed in connection to the Zhanaozen clashes. None of the outlets had any connection to the activist or his trial, and hence could not object to the statements made against them during his court hearings. This, however, did not stop the prosecutors or the courts from pinning them with the "extremist" label and using Kozlov's verdict to justify criminal prosecution of the media.

Second and more significantly, while authorities de jure targeted Zhdanova's regional partner, Kyrgyzstan-based media company Stan TV, de facto it was a team of local journalists at Almaty-based that landed in the cross hairs. "Both in Kozlov's verdict and in subsequent court rulings against the outlets, authorities mentioned 'foreign media outlet Stan TV,' but this is a completely different organization to which our newsroom has absolutely no legal connection," Zhdanova told CPJ. Her news outlet had its own website and only contributed reporting to Stan TV projects at the latter's request, but, not its Kyrgyz partner, is blocked inside the country and abroad.

Read the full story on CPJ's website

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