CPJ condemns beating of independent journalist

New York, August 29, 2002—A prominent Kazakh journalist was seriously beaten by unknown assailants on the evening of August 28, according to sources in Almaty, a southern city in Kazakhstan.

Sergei Duvanov, who writes for opposition-financed Web sites, returned to his home in Almaty at around 9:45 p.m. yesterday after attending an English class. He took the elevator to his 4th floor apartment, where he was attacked by three men with clubs as he stepped on to the landing, said the sources. There is no light in the stairwell of Duvanov’s apartment building so the journalist was unable to identify his attackers.

Duvanov lives alone and no one came to his assistance. When the attackers left, a neighbor called an ambulance, and the journalist was taken to the neurological department of the city hospital.

At a September 29 press conference by Duvanov’s colleagues at the Kazakhstan Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law—where he works as the editor-in-chief of the bulletin, Human Rights in Kazakhstan and the World—journalists were told that in addition to severe bruising and a concussion, Duvanov suffered light knife wounds to the arms and chest. He has difficulty speaking and lifting his head.

Duvanov was able to tell his colleagues that in response to his question “Why are you beating me?” one of his attackers said, “You know why. And if you carry on, you’ll be made a total cripple.” Police have visited the journalist in the hospital and reportedly took his notebook and mobile phone. The attack is under police investigation.

Duvanov is a political commentator who is well known for his critical analyses of political conditions in Kazakhstan and has suffered frequent harassment at the hands of the Kazakh authorities.

Most recently, on July 9, a criminal case was brought against him by the General Prosecutor’s office for “infringing the honor and dignity of the president” under article 318 of the Kazakh Criminal Code. The charge carries a penalty of a fine or a maximum three-year prison sentence, and stems from his article about alleged official corruption involving Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev. (For more details, See CPJ’s alert, July 16, 2002.)

In a press release, Duvanov’s colleagues said that they are convinced that the beating of the journalist was an act of revenge for his critical articles.

“We demand a thorough investigation into this attack,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “And we urge President Nazarbayev to see that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”