Court suspends opposition paper for insulting the president

New York, December 22, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists voiced outrage at the censorship of the Kazakh opposition newspaper Zhuma-Taims which has reported on vote rigging and corruption in the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The Economic Court in Almaty suspended the paper’s print-run in a December 20 ruling, according to the Kazakh International Bureau for Human Rights & Rule of Law (KIBHRRL). The newspaper was not notified of the hearing and was not represented in court.

Earlier this month a prosecutor in Almaty filed a suit in the Economic Court seeking to close down the newspaper, KIBHRRL said. The court suspended the paper’s print-run pending a hearing of the prosecutor’s suit on December 23.

“This is censorship in its most primitive form,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “The authorities are using the court to silence the opposition press and stifle critical reporting.”

Zhuma-Taims printed allegations about vote rigging in the December 4 presidential election, which Nazarbayev won with 91 per cent of the vote. Zhuma-Taims‘ deputy editor Bakhytgul Makenbai said that authorities were angered by articles carried in the December 8 issue about “Kazakhgate” – an investigation into allegations that Nazarbayev and his allies accepted bribes from U.S. oil companies in 2000, reports said.

Police seized the entire 100,000-copy print-run of Zhuma-Taims that day, and an Almaty administrative court fined the paper 97,100 tenge (US$700), KIBHRRL said.
Zhuma-Taims endured consistent harassment in the months before the presidential vote.

Zhuma-Taims was one of six opposition and independent newspapers blocked from publishing in late September because they covered the campaign of opposition presidential candidate Zharmakhan Tuyakbai. The papers resumed printing later in the fall, but authorities continued to confiscate their copies, CPJ research showed.