Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned by the growing crackdown on independent journalists in Kazakhstan “The authorities, even more paranoid as a result of riots in Janaozen in December, are using the security argument as a pretext to step up their crackdown on the media,” the press freedom organization said.
“After Stan TV and Vzglyad, Golos Respubliki is once again at the centre of the storm. Independent journalism as a whole is being targeted by a government unable to reassert its authority other than by force.”
The deputy editor of the independent newspaper Golos Respubliki, Oksana Makushina, was summoned for a second day today for questioning at the head office of the National Security Committee, the KNB. She had already spent seven hours there the day before. At the same time, the paper’s editorial offices were searched and computers and technical equipment seized.
Makushina came under suspicion because she chaired a press conference three days ago in support of the jailed journalist Igor Vinyavsky (see below). Other participants were also summoned. KNB agents wanted to know how they discovered the precise charge brought against the journalist and how they obtained a leaflet that he is accused of distributing.
They also questioned the organizers to determine whose idea it was to show the leaflet to the journalists attending the press conference, who did so, and whether they were aware of the subversive implications of such an action.
Vinyavsky, editor of Vzglyad, was arrested on 23 January and is being held in pre-trial detention for two months. He is accused of distributing leaflets calling for an insurrection shortly after the overthrow of the government of Kurmanbek Bakiyev in neighbouring Kygyzstan in 2010.
The leaflet contains images of the Kyrgyz uprising and a photo of a man holding up a picture of the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The caption reads: “Kyrgyzia got rid of the predatory Bakiyev clan. We’ve waited long enough, let’s throw (this picture) in the bin!”
Press freedom organizations are surprised at the slowness of the authorities’ response and believe it is a trumped-up case. There is no trace of the leaflet on the computers seized from Vinyavsky and the Vzglyad editorial offices.
Golos Respubliki is the main independent newspaper in Kazakhstan, which is classified 154th out of 179 countries in the latest world press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders.
26.01.2012 Independent newspaper editor held by security agency
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the detention of Igor Vinyavsky (Игорь Винявский), the editor of the independent newspaper Vzglyad, since 23 January and calls for his immediate release.
Arrested in Almaty at the end of a series of raids on the offices of several independent news media, Vinyavsky has been charged under article 170 of the criminal code with distributing leaflets calling for the government’s overthrow. The charge carries a possible five-year jail sentence.
Mikhail Sizov, the editor of Alga, an opposition newspaper that was also searched, was questioned for the entire day on 23 January by the Committee for State Security (KNB) before being released.
Vzglyad has not been able to publish since the raids because all of its computers were seized. Vinyavsky’s personal computers were also seized during a search of his home on the evening of 23 January. An Almaty court is due to decide tomorrow whether he is to remain in custody.
Harassment of independent journalists has been mounting since a violent crackdown on rioting oil workers in the western city of Zhanaozen on 16 December. Members of a crew working for Stan TV, an independent TV station, were detained for an hour in Zhanaozen on 11 January. Two days later, 15 Stan TV employees – almost all of the station’s staff – were summoned to KNB headquarters for interrogation.
They were questioned about their coverage of the Zhanaozen riot although none of Stan TV’s staff were in the city on the day it took place. The station was however one of the first news outlets to broadcast video footage filmed by netizens showing the police using violence against demonstrators.