Kazakstan Authorities Shut Down Independent Opposition Paper

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September 30, 1998

 

His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev
President of Kazakstan
Almaty, Kazakstan

 

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly alarmed by the illegal shutdown of the XXI Vek (21st Century) opposition newspaper by Almaty city authorities on September 28 following the fire bombing of it's offices two days earlier.

Early on Monday, representatives of the so-called liquidation commission of the Almaty city juridical board visited the newspaper's charred offices and told the editors and staff of XXI Vek of their decision to close the weekly. The officials gave no reason for the ruling, which contravenes articles 49 and 50 of the country's civil code. According to those articles, only the courts and the owners of a company have the authority to dissolve a business. Bigeldin Gabdullin, XXI Vek's editor-in-chief, is appealing the agency's decision, which came only two days after unidentified assailants tossed a Molotov cocktail through the third floor window of his office. No one was injured in the nighttime attack. Paramedics who arrived first at the scene managed to extinguish the fire before any firefighters appeared. The fire destroyed office furniture, equipment and an archive containing all 29 issues of the new weekly.

The announced closure and fire bombing of XXI Vek are the culmination of a month long series of incidents apparently aimed at silencing the newspaper for its critical coverage of the current administration. In mid September, under apparent pressure from authorities, the private printing house and state-run distribution company that printed and distributed XXI Vek tore up their contracts with the paper.

As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the universally recognized rights of our colleagues around the world, CPJ strongly protests the illegal closure and violent attack against the XXI Vek weekly. These acts violate all of Kazakstan's national and international commitments to guarantee press freedom and the rights of journalists to free and safely practice their profession. This latest silencing of an alternative source of news contributes to the increasingly repressive climate for opposition and independent news media in Kazakstan since 1996. We urge you to investigate and reverse the illegal move by Almaty city authorities to shut down XXI Vek. We also call on you to rigorously investigate the fire bombing, and bring those found responsible to justice.

Thank you for your attention. We await your comments.

 

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper

Executive Director



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His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev
President of Kazakstan
Almaty, Kazakstan

Fax: 011-7-3272-637-633