New York, September 18,
2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the seizure of the print
run of one of the few remaining independent newspapers in Kazakhstan, which is
set to take control of a leading security and human rights organization. The
country will become chair of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in
On Friday, court officers in the financial capital Almaty confiscated the entire print run of Almaty-based independent weekly Respublika-Delovoye Obozreniye, the Associated Press reported. Authorities also froze the bank accounts of the weekly and its publisher, news Web site Lenta reported. Court officials reportedly cited a September 9 verdict from the Medeu District Court in Almaty that ordered the weekly to pay 60 million Kazakh tenge (about US$400,000) to the state-owned BTA Bank in damages. The paper plans to file an appeal next week.
BTA Bank filed a lawsuit last month against Respublika-Delovoye Obozreniye, claiming that an article in the March issue of the weekly led to 6.7 billion Kazakh tenge (about US$44 million) in withdrawals, regional news Web site Ferghana reported. The newspaper said the confiscation of its print run was part of the government’s campaign to shut down the publication.
“It is outrageous that a country that is set to assume the chairmanship of an organization that promotes human rights, security, and press freedom should censor and harass one of its few independent news outlets,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We call on Kazakh authorities to return the confiscated print run and to overturn the verdict against the paper on appeal.”
According to Ferghana,
court officers confiscated the print run as it was set to leave a local
printing house in Almaty early Friday morning, based on a September 11 court
order. Oksana Makushina, the weekly’s chief editor, told the Kazakh
service of the
Authorities also dispatched a traffic police unit, which thoroughly
checked all vehicles leaving the printing house, Makushina told
CPJ research shows that