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NETWORK REVS UP PRESS FREEDOM CAMPAIGNING; KAZAKH JOURNALIST DIES

Press freedom advocates and journalists in Central Asia have called on their governments to abolish criminal defamation and insult laws, and vowed to step up campaigning against free expression violations and restrictions in the region.

At a Central Asian Coordinating Council meeting organised by IFEX member Adil Soz on 25 July 2007 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 20 media representatives and free expression advocates planned better coordination of efforts to improve the deteriorating free expression situation in their countries. According to Rinata Alibekova, IFEX Central Asia Project Coordinator, among nine steps they agreed upon were to speed up information exchanges among members, publish reports and develop joint actions.

The new initiative will kick off with a regional campaign to repeal criminal defamation, insult laws and other restrictive media legislation, and an effort to raise free expression issues on 8 September, International Solidarity Day, especially in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"The Coordinating Council is the main, if not the only, way to have regular communication among the leading Central Asian NGOs," Adil Soz director Tamara Kaleyeva says. "We are also able to organise joint actions, despite the great difference in our countries."

Meanwhile, the seventh journalist in Kazakhstan to be killed in a road accident since 2002 died on 2 August 2007. Authorities said 37-year-old Saken Tauzhanov, who wrote for three independent news websites -- zonakz.net, dialog.kz, and kub.kz -- was run over by a truck.

Noting that Tauzhanov was the third opposition journalist killed in similar circumstances this year, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) urged investigators not to come to any hasty conclusions about "this 'accident.'"

Also in August, a popular Kazakh tabloid was forced to close, and was quickly replaced with a similar paper run by the president's former press secretary. Editors of the weekly "Caravan" told the "Washington Post" they were informed that their printer would no longer produce the paper and that their landlords were evicting them. Four days later, a new paper with a nearly identical front-page design was published by a company that moved into an office above "Caravan"'s newsroom in Almaty, the editors said.

Adil Soz's Kaleyeva said Kazakhstan's media law expressly prohibits registration of a new media outlet that could be confused with a previous one. "The new "Caravan" and existing "Caravan" are basically twin brothers," she said. "Registering it as a new media outlet shouldn't have been allowed. It's breaking the law."

Visit these links:
- Adil Soz: http://www.adilsoz.kz
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23204
- "Caravan": http://tinyurl.com/2lwde4
- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: http://tinyurl.com/2r25wz
14 August 2007

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