Pro-opposition journalist severely beaten in Kazakhstan

New York, February 6, 2009–Following a vicious attack in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on a reporter for a pro-opposition weekly, the Committee to Protect Journalists called today for the Kazakh authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation and to bring the assailants to justice.

At least three young men attacked Bakhytzhan Nurpeisov, 19, of the weekly Obshchestvennaya Pozitsiya (Public Position), at around 9 p.m. on Thursday when he was walking home, Reuters reported. The assailants also took Nurpeisov’s camera, press ID, tape recorder, and notepad. His wallet and phone were still on him. Nurpeisov is currently hospitalized with a concussion, a broken cheekbone, and multiple bruises on his head.

Obschestvennaya Pozitsiya covers social and political issues in Kazakhstan and is critical of the local government. In his recent articles, Nurpeisov juxtaposed the luxurious private property of the mayor of Astana with the deteriorating economic conditions in Kazakhstan, Rozlana Taukina, director of the Almaty-based press freedom group Journalists in Danger, told CPJ. Taukina said she believes the attack is related to Nurpeisov’s journalism.

This is a third attack on an independent journalist in Kazakhstan’s financial capital in the past two months, according to CPJ research.

“We condemn the brutal attack on Bakhytzhan Nurpeisov and call on Kazakh authorities to investigate it thoroughly and effectively, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. “This latest violent attack on a critical journalist in Kazakhstan threatens to have a deeply chilling effect on the country’s embattled press corps. Authorities must demonstrate that they will not tolerate such brutality.”

In the two issues of Obshchestvennaya Pozitsiya preceding the attack, Nurpeisov wrote about Astana Mayor Imangali Tasmagambetov’s collection of rare and expensive cars and his several mansions in Almaty; the journalist contrasted this with dire conditions of local residents who struggle to make their living amid an economic crisis, Taukina said.

Kazakh Interior Ministry spokesman Bagdat Kozhakhmetov told Reuters that police are investigating the incident, but added that “one should not rush to link everything with politics.”

In late December, an unidentified assailant stabbed Artyom Miusov, a reporter from the opposition weekly Taszhargan, when he was walking home in Almaty. A few weeks later, five young men attacked Yermek Boltai, a reporter and editor for the Web site of the Kazakh service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, outside his apartment building. Kazakh police have yet to apprehend any suspects.