New York, September 27, 2005—Six newspapers that have covered an opposition candidate’s presidential campaign were prevented on Monday from publishing their current editions, according to local and international press reports. Managers at the private printing company Vremya-Print in the financial capital of Almaty refused to explain why they would not publish Epokha, Svoboda Slova, Zhuma-taims, Apta.kz, Azat, and Soz.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his allies routinely pressure private printers not to publish independent newspapers, and they regularly stifle critical news reporting with politicized lawsuits and criminal investigations, according to research by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“The record shows that President Nazarbayev and his allies are willing to block opposing points of view,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “This development calls further attention to Kazakhstan’s dismal press freedom record and raises additional concerns about the legitimacy of the coming election.”
Nazarbeyev, who has ruled for 16 years, is running against Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, the candidate of the opposition alliance, “For a Fair Kazakhstan,” in the December 4 election. The six newspapers, with a combined circulation reported at 400,000, are among the few media outlets that have reported on Tuyakbai’s campaign. At least some are sympathetic to his candidacy.
Editors for the newspapers said at a press conference on Monday that other printers were also refusing them services, the Russian service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.