TV Station Fires News Director for Covering Attacks on Opposition Leaders

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New York, April 20, 2000 — A TV news director in Kazakhstan was dismissed under official pressure after she covered the harassment of three opposition leaders, according to CPJ’s sources in Almaty.

On March 31, Tatyana Deltsova was fired from her job as news director of the daily news program “Informbureau” on Almaty’s Channel 31, where she has worked for the past six years. Her dismissal followed an “Informbureau” report, broadcast the previous evening, that detailed attempts to intimidate opposition leaders Amirzhan Kosanov, Nurbulat Masanov, and Seidakhmet Kuttikadam.

Unidentified assailants subjected the three men to threats and violence in their homes, cementing doors, breaking windows, and cutting telephone lines. The harassment took place one day before a scheduled meeting of the Republican People’s Party, Kazakhstan’s main opposition group.

Deltsova’s report about this incident aired on the evening of March 30. “Informbureau” is usually repeated at midnight, but the March 30 program aired only once. The following morning, Deltsova was dismissed by Channel 31’s president, Armanzhan Baytasov.

In conversation with Deltsova, Baytasov acknowledged that the government had pressured him to fire her, but declined to name the officials responsible on the grounds that he feared further retribution.

Channel 31 is a commercial station, and its news programming is considered to be the sole source of objective broadcasting in Kazakhstan, where most of the press is under strict government control. According to the Kazakh newspaper Soldat, two other “Informbureau” journalists were fired in January of this year. Darmen Smail and Dauren Kayip were dismissed on the orders of the Committee for National Security, a government agency, after they produced another program about the opposition.

“Based on all available information, we are convinced that Kazakh government officials pressured Channel 31 to dismiss Deltsova for political reasons,” said CPJ’s Europe program coordinator, Emma Gray.