Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that two journalists with Stan TV, an Almaty-based independent news website and online TV station, were attacked and beaten with baseball bats today while on their way to film a strike by oil workers in the western province of Mangystau.
“This gratuitous violence is shocking,” Reporters Without Borders said. “There were many witnesses and the car used by the attackers has been identified. We demand a swift and impartial investigation. The completely impunity enjoyed by those responsible for the many violent attacks in connection with the strike is intolerable. The authorities must end the impunity at once or be regarded as accomplices.”
The two Stan TV journalists, cameraman Asan Amilov and reporter Orken Bisenov, were attacked by four unidentified individuals a few kilometres outside Aktau, the capital of Mangystau province, at around 2 p.m. today.
Their assailants repeatedly hit them with baseball bats and used a pistol to fire rubber bullets at them. Amilov sustained blows to all parts of his body and his camera was smashed. Bisenov’s computer was taken. Amilov lost a lot of blood from a head injury and broken collar-bone while Bisenov sustained a back injury. Both were hospitalized.
The strike by oil workers in Mangystau has continued for more than three months despite the use of violence by the authorities in an attempt to suppress it. Journalists trying to cover the strike and the response of the authorities have also been targeted (see below).
29.09.2011 - Authorities hound independent online TV station, close studio
Reporters Without Borders condemns the government’s hounding of the Almaty-based online television station Stan TV, which is Kazakhstan’s leading independent news website and a regular provider of video material to the Central Asian satellite station K+.
Harassment of Stan TV and Namystan, an independent news agency with which it cooperates, intensified after they covered a long and unprecedented strike by oil workers in the western province of Mangystau that was violently suppressed by the authorities.
“The Kazakh security services are clearly ready to use the most absurd and insidious ploys to gag independent media,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Inspections, attempted bribery, threats, attacks and now court orders – every kind of weapon has been used against Stan TV and its partners.”
In the latest move, an Almaty court issued an order on 27 September for the closure of Stan TV’s production studio and the dismantling of its receiver-transmitter satellite dish until it complies with the public health inspection agency’s standards.
Four days before that, the same court ordered Namystan to close its offices for failure to respect fire safety standards. The wave of inspections that began nearly two months ago are clearly beginning to have an effect.
Stan TV was notified on 8 September that the health inspection agency had filed a complaint against it before Almaty’s Bostandyk district court. According to the agency (whose deputy director attacked a Stan TV cameraman the day before the notification’s arrival), the electromagnetic radiation from the satellite dish on Stan TV’s roof posed a threat to the health of residents in the area. The owner of the dish, the telecom company ASTEL, nonetheless insisted that it complied with the standards and was less powerful than other dishes in the neighbourhood.
The agency’s offensive was stepped up after a new inspection on 15 September. The agency also accused Stan TV of letting its “studio employees work without regular prior health checks” (required by the prevailing legislation for this category of employees) and of “not providing lab analysis results for noise, light intensity and temperature” in its offices.”
The agency claimed that it had measured a temperature of 27°C in its offices, instead of the regulatory 25°C. All of Stan TV’s requests for copies of the reports were rejected, while the results of the independent tests commissioned by Stan TV were ignored by the court.
Two of Stan TV’s journalists, Sherniyaz Shagatay and Azamat Esbergen, reported on 20 September that members of the National Security Committee (KNB) – the KGB’s successor – had repeatedly tried to get them to cooperate with the agency and, when they refused, began to threaten them openly and repeatedly.
Stan TV producer Danesh Baibolov said the website’s accountant and members of the Russian-language staff had also been repeatedly threatened. Five Stan TV employees have already resigned because of harassment.
“The authorities must put an immediate stop to this harassment of Stan TV and its media partners,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This sham justice is hurting Kazakhstan’s image and its aspirations to be a regional leader.”