Kazakhstan moves to shut down independent media | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Kazakhstan moves to shut down independent media

Kazakhstan moves to shut down independent media

Oslo/Almaty, 21 November 2012: The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned at today’s request by the Prosecutor General’s office in Kazakhstan that the court ban what in effect are all news outlets critical of the current government.

 - The pressure on independent media in Kazakhstan has been considerable for years, including police harassment of journalists, staff and editors, said Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Bjørn Engesland. – However, today’s announcement by the Prosecutor General represents a dramatic step in the wrong direction.

Referring initally to a decision by Mangistau Regional Court on Friday 19 November 2012 to uphold a 7 ½ year prison sentence for alleged involvement in the uprising in Zhanaozen in December 2011 for Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the Alga opposition party, the Prosecutor General went on to accuse a number of newspapers, websites and TV-channels in the country as intent on “inciting social unrest” and “overthrowing the government and undermining state security”.

In addition to requesting that the court recognize political party Alga and the social movement Khalyk Maydany as extremist, the Prosecutor General asked for a ban on the publishing of 8 newspapers and 23 web-based news outlets, including the spread of materials from these newspapers through the internet.

Among the news outlets listed were all major independent media currently operating in the country, among them satellite TV-channel K+ and web-based TV-channel Stan TV, as well as newspapers Golos Respubliki and Vzglyad. It also asked for a ban on the production of news materials for K+ and Stan TV in Kazakhstan and for their internet sites to be closed down.

The news outlets mentioned above have been active in covering the trials and general developments following the tragedy in Zhanaozen on 16 December 2011, as well as publishing opinion pieces and interviews critical of the current government of Kazakhstan.

Deputy editor of Golos Respubliki, Oksana Makushina, stated on her personal Facebook page today that an attack on media had been expected for some time, but that work was ongoing for the Friday issue of the newspaper.

-A formal ban on independent media would be a shocking move, and would represent a serious blow to Kazakhstan’s reputation internationally, said Engesland. - The government should understand that the respect for freedom of speech and the widest specter of opinions is fundamental to a healthy democratic development in any country. Kazakhstan must focus on dialogue, not oppression.

On 13 November 2012, Kazakhstan was elected member of the UN Human Rights Council. In its letter of candidature, Kazakhstan pledged to respect its obligations to all fundamental human rights, underlining that “In Kazakhstan, the principle of tolerance is not only a norm of political culture, but also a key principle of State policy, which is supported and advocated.”

Upon being elected, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that Kazakhstan has “pledged to use its membership to strengthen human rights both at home and abroad”, adding that recent efforts had “demonstrated the country’s progress on human rights and its readiness for open and constructive cooperation with international human rights mechanisms”.

On this background, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee encourages Kazakhstan to respect fundamental freedoms not only in word, but in deed.

 

Links:

K+ news channel covers daily events in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and is available via satellite and on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/KplusTV?feature=g-all-u

Stan TV covers events in all five Central Asian republics:
http://www.stan.tv/  and https://www.facebook.com/pr.stan.tv

Golos Respubliki is currently available in paper format in newspaper kiosks across Kazakhstan and via proxy server http://www.respublika-info.kz/as well as on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RESPUBLIKA.kzand Twitter.

Vzglyad is currently available in paper format in newspaper kiosks across Kazakhstan, as well as on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/vzglyad.kz and Twitter.

The announcement from the Prosecutor General’s office can be found here: http://prokuror.kz/rus/novosti2/?cid=0&rid=4548