The overall climate of press freedom continued to deteriorate although authorities took a step forward in combating impunity in one anti-press attack. Four individuals were convicted and sentenced to jail, and one more suspect was awaiting his trial at year's end in relation to an April 2012 attack on journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov, but no mastermind was named or brought to justice. In February, authorities upheld verdicts ordering dozens of critical news outlets to be shut or blocked domestically on accusations of spreading extremism. As if unsatisfied by the ban, prosecutors continued to harass journalists with the now-outlawed independent newspaper Respublika and barred them from practicing journalism. Citing technical violations, authorities ordered at least three other critical newspapers to suspend publishing. According to the Almaty-based press freedom group Adil Soz, the unfounded and illegal ban on dozens of news outlets, intimidation of individual journalists, unsolved violence, hefty fines, and anti-press freedom laws cemented self-censorship among local reporters. During his June visit to Kazakhstan, British Prime Minister David Cameron tried to discuss these and other human rights abuses with President Nursultan Nazarbayev, but the Kazakh leader publicly told Cameron “not to lecture Kazakhstan.“
Respublika affiliates denied appeal
Tenge in damages
A Kazakh appeals court in February upheld a December 2012 court ruling ordering the ban of one of the country’s most prominent critical newspapers, Respublika, on fabricated charges of extremism, according to Adil Soz. Thirty other outlets affiliated with the paper, including publications, news websites, and Facebook pages, were blocked inside the country.
Several other news outlets banned by the authorities also had their appeal denied early in the year, Adil Soz said.
Outlawed and banned in Kazakhstan:
|Respublika, its seven sister publications, and 23 news websites and social networking sites affiliated with the newspapers or carrying similar names.|
|Independent newspaper Vzglyad, and all of its affiliate news websites and Facebook pages|
|Independent Web-based broadcaster K-Plus, its mirror websites and affiliated Facebook pages|
|Independent news website Stan-TV|
At least 11 journalists reported being attacked or beaten while covering the news, according to Adil Soz.
|2 cases in January
|An unidentified assailant attacked and beat Amandyk Amankulov, a cameraman with the regional broadcaster 31 Channel, while he was reporting on a police raid in the southwestern city of Aktau. The journalist was assaulted as he attempted to film how the police tackled and separated parties in a confrontation.|
|5 assaults in May
|Two journalists working for the regional television company Otyrar said a local official physically attacked them. Journalist Ardak Zhaksylykov and cameraman Meyerbek Tolebayev were reporting on a protest rally in Shymkent region.|
|3 cases in June
|In mid-June, Denis Khusainov, a cameraman with news portal Tengrinews TV, was assaulted while reporting on a fire department squad’s attempt to extinguish a fire on a bus in Almaty. Khusainov’s camera was broken and his memory card seized.|
1 attack in August
|Four assailants used a crowbar to brutally beat Igor Larra, a critical reporter with the independent newspaper Svoboda Slova, in western Aktobe. In October, Larra died in a hospital, where he was undergoing pancreatic surgery. It is unclear if the surgery was related to the attack.|
|Lukpan Akhmedyarov is hospitalized after being stabbed and shot outside his apartment building in Uralsk, western Kazakhstan.|
|Judge Galymzhan Ishchanov of Uralsk City Court tells a press conference that four men suspected of carrying out the attack against Akhmedyarov have been placed in state custody, Adil Soz reports.|
|Uralskaya Nedelya reports that one of the suspects had promised payment to his accomplices in return for attacking the journalist.|
|Investigators finish the inquiry and set a trial date for late April, Uralskaya Nedelya reports.|
|The four individuals--Askhat Takhambetov, Mursalim Sultangereyev, Almaz Batyrkhairov, and Manarbek Akbulatov--are convicted of attempted murder of Akhmedyarov and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 11 to 15 years.|
|Authorities arrested a fifth suspect in the case, Nurlan Takhambetov, after accusing him of organizing the assault; he was awaiting trial at year's end, Uralskaya Nedelya reported.|
Local residents and authorities sought debilitating fines from the press on defamation and insult charges. As of November 2013, damages sought from journalists and their newsrooms totaled 2,471,415,102 tenge (about US$16,029,425), according to Adil Soz. Although, in most instances, the courts ruled in favor of the press, time-consuming legal battles, as well as the looming threat of unfavorable rulings, prompted reporters to self-censor.
In February, journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov and his newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya announced they were collecting coins to pay damages to Tlekkabyl Imashev, a regional government official who filed a lawsuit in connection with a February 2012 article that accused him of nepotism and corruption. In July 2012, a regional court ruled in favor of the official.
In April, Ayan Shayakhmetov, a police official in Kostanay, northern Kazakhstan, sought damages from Stanislav Kiselev, a regional reporter for the newspaper Vremya, in connection with a September 2010 article that alleged the police were torturing detainees. In June, a regional appeals court ruled in favor of the reporter.
In July, Aydarbek Namazbayev, head of the regional traffic police department in the city of Taldykorgan, sought damages from the newspaper Vecherniy Taldykorgan and its publisher in connection with an article that alleged the official had violated traffic regulations. In October, regional court ordered the newspaper and its publisher to publicly refute the accusations against Namazbayev, and pay him 500,000 (about US$3,240) tenge in moral damages.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.