Kazakhstan TV crew assaulted after covering labor strike

New York, October 26, 2011–Authorities in the western Mangystau region of Kazakhstan must thoroughly investigate a brutal attack today against two journalists for the Internet-based opposition broadcaster Stan TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

Four unidentified men assaulted reporter Orken Bisen and cameraman Asan Amilov with baseball bats and a non-lethal traumatic pistol, Stan TV said in a statement. Bisen was shot twice in the back, while Amilov was shot in the leg and struck in the head during the noontime assault in the city of Aktau. Both were hospitalized, according to regional press reports.

The assailants took the reporters’ notebook computer, extensive video footage, and a backpack with reporting equipment before fleeing in a white Toyota SUV, the Kazakh service (Radio Azattyk) of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Zhuldyz Toleouva, Stan TV’s deputy editor, told Radio Azattyk that she believes her colleagues were attacked in retaliation for their reporting on a local strike by oil and gas company workers. The strikers have demanded pay increases and the elimination of restrictions on labor unions, press reports said.

Speaking from the hospital, Bisen told Radio Azattyk that he and his colleague were boarding a taxi when the assailants approached. He said the men stole all the video footage the journalists had compiled after arriving in Aktau on Sunday to cover the strike. “They took everything. All the data was on that hard drive,” Bisen told Radio Azattyk. He said he believed the assailants had been following them before the attack.

“We are appalled by the vicious attack against our colleagues Orken Bisen and Asan Amilov, and call on regional authorities to investigate and bring those responsible to justice,” said CPJ Europe and Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. “Authorities must not tolerate attempts to intimidate journalists into silence.”