Kazakhstan Must End Media Crackdown
Freedom House today called on the government of Kazakhstan to immediately stop harassing independent media, and to foster an environment that respects the rights of all citizens to freedom of expression.
Kazakhstan is currently hosting an international conference aimed at promoting the development of mass media in Eurasia and facilitating dialogue on "the challenges faced by the media community."
"We urge Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to honor the spirit of this conference by upholding his country's constitution and ending official persecution of independent media," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor.
The conference is sponsored by the Almaty-based Eurasian Media Forum Foundation, founded in 2001 by Dariga Nazarbayeva, the president's daughter.
While the constitution of Kazakhstan provides for freedom of the press, the government has in recent years consistently harassed the media, including violent attacks against journalists. In the past year, as domestic opposition has grown against alleged corruption in the Nazarbayev regime, the government has intensified its crackdown on Kazakh media.
Kazakh media is not permitted to criticize the president and his family, and self-censorship is widely practiced. Most newspapers, publishing facilities, and television and radio stations are controlled or otherwise influenced by the government and its supporters, including by Ms. Nazarbayeva.
Freedom House also called for a fair and impartial review of the case of independent journalist Sergei Duvanov, who was convicted in January of allegedly raping a minor. Charges were brought against the journalist, an outspoken critic of the regime, as he was preparing to travel to the United States to speak about Kazakhstan's human rights situation and government corruption.
Duvanov, who has written on the alleged transfer of $1 billion from state coffers into a private Swiss bank account controlled by President Nazarbayev, had faced earlier harassment by the authorities in connection with his work and was the victim of a violent physical attack by unknown assailants in 2002. It is widely regarded that Mr. Duvanov was denied the right to a fair trail and that the case against him is politically motivated.
For more information about political rights and civil liberties in Kazakhstan, please refer to the following Freedom House reports:
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.