MAY 4, 2005
Posted: May 17, 2005 Respublika Delovoye Obozreniye
The Kazakh Culture, Information, and Sports Ministry ordered the closing of the leading opposition weekly Respublika Delovoye Obozreniye (Republic Business Review).
Galina Dyrdina, the weekly's deputy editor, said the paper would appeal the May 4 closure order in court. The order contained no explanation of the reasons behind the closure, the weekly's staff said.
The newspaper's lawyer, Sergei Utkin said the ministry has no legal authority to order the shuttering. He said Kazakh law allows only the newspaper's owner or a court with proper jurisdiction to close down a publication, according to the news agency Interfax.
The order stems from a civil lawsuit against the weekly's owner, the Bastau company, which was also ordered closed, Oksana Makushina, a Respublika Delovoye Obozreniye staffer, told CPJ in a telephone interview. The lawsuit, in turn, stemmed from an interview with Kazakhstan-born Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky that was published January 20 in Respublika Analitichesky Yezhenedelnik (Republic Analytical Weekly), an supplement of the newspaper.
Zhirinovsky criticized the delineation of the Kazakhstan and Russia border, questioned Kazakhstan's legitimacy to statehood, and denied the existence of the Kazakh language.
In March, the Information Ministry filed a civil suit at the Almaty economic court against Bastau, accusing the company of inciting ethnic hatred by publishing the interview. Bastau lost the suit and was ordered closed. The company appealed, but last week the Almaty city court upheld the economic court's verdict.
In an effort to save the paper by legally separating from Bastau, Makushina told CPJ that Respublika Delovoye Obozreniye had changed owners in March. It informed the Information Ministry about the change prior to the lawsuit, Makushina said, but the Ministry never acknowledged receiving the information.
Some observers commented that the move to close down Respublika Delovoye Obozreniye—one of the few Kazakh publications to criticize President Nursultan Nazarbayev—was an attempt to silence the popular weekly ahead of presidential elections due in December.