Kazakhstan ignores OSCE commitments
The newspaper “Svoboda Slova” (Freedom of Speech) was today confiscated by the City Administration of Almaty because of its coverage of corruption claims against President Nazarbayev’s son in law, Timur Askarovich Kulebayev.
– The confiscation is in clear breach of OSCE commitments on free press and rule of law, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – Other OSCE countries, including Norway which is opening its Embassy in Astana on 5 February 2010, should strongly criticize that Kazakhstan, currently chairing the OSCE, so blatantly disregards its commitments.
The confiscation is based on a 1 February 2010 decision by the Medeu Court of Almaty, ruling that all media which contains information “discrediting Mr.Kulebayev’s honour and dignity” should be seized. – Court rulings exempting one man from criticism is not acceptable in a country claiming to respect the rule of law, and is in clear breach of OSCE commitments and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Kazakhstan became a party to on 24 January 2006, says Engesland.
Officers of the city administration came to Svoboda Slova’s editorial office midday on 4 February 2010 with a written order signed by a senior court official of the Medeu territorial court, ordering the confiscation of the paper. All salesmen also received written notifications to wrap up the 4 February issue of the paper. They had to identify how many issues they had received, and return all remaining issues to the storage for local confiscations if they were not already picked up by officers of the administration. Throughout the 4 February, city administration officers approached salesmen to order them not to sell the newspaper.
Five newspapers in Kazakhstan were mentioned in the 1 February court decision: Respublika, Golos Respubliki, Shezhire LTD, Vzglyad, IATs Ayna, and Kursiv News. But the decision also includes all other media, printed or otherwise, not to publish, distribute or print articles which discredit Mr. Kulebayev’s honour and dignity. A reasonable interpretation of the Court decision is that media should not mention Mr.Kulebayev unfavourably at all.
A letter from the editor of “Svoboda Slova,” Ms Gulzhan Ergalieva, concludes: “If the head story of our front page “Second President Kulebayev?” and other articles on the Medeu court decision favouring the President’s son-in-law, as well as the corresponding comments from journalists and lawyers are violations of that very decision, then I am obliged to say that there is an apartheid against the free press in Kazakhstan. The regime has quite distinctly demonstrated their goal – complete extermination of free media in Kazakhstan.”