Two journalists brutally beaten in Kazakh capital

New York, August 14, 2012–Authorities in Kazakhstan must thoroughly investigate attacks on two journalists in separate episodes in the past week and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Three unidentified men beat and attempted to strangle Maksim Kartashov at the entrance of his apartment building at 10 p.m. on Monday in Astana, the capital, the journalist told the online news agency Novosti Kazakhstana. Kartashov is the chief editor of the sports magazine Hokkey Kazakhstana (Kazakhstan’s Hockey) and a contributor to the news website Express-K. The assailants fled the scene when Kartashov started calling for help, news reports said. The journalist was diagnosed with a concussion and multiple bruises, the reports said.

Kartashov told Novosti Kazakhstana that the attack may have been inspired by his recent reporting on alleged corruption in Kazakhstan’s ice hockey federation. He said he had received threats in the past in connection to his coverage of ice hockey in the country.

In a press release published on its website, the ice hockey federation condemned the attack on Kartashov and denied any involvement.

In a separate attack last Wednesday, four unidentified assailants brutally beat Ularbek Baitailaq, a stringer for several Kazakh-language pro-opposition outlets, including the newspapers Dat and Tortinshi Bilik and the magazine Altyn Tamyr, near his house in an Astana suburb, the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. The men pummeled the journalist with repeated blows to the head until presumably believing him to be dead, according to the Almaty-based press freedom group Adil Soz. Then the men covered his body with stones and left him on the street, the group said. The attackers also stole Baitailaq’s cell phone, clothes, press card, and about 50,000 tenge (about US$335), news reports said.

Baitailaq was hospitalized with a concussion, broken teeth, lacerated lips, and multiple bruises, news reports said. Doctors said that the journalist would remain in the hospital for about a month, the reports said.

It is unclear whether Baitailaq had covered any controversial stories recently or if his journalism could be considered a motive in the attack.

“We condemn the brutal attacks on Maksim Kartashov and Ularbek Baitailaq and call on Kazakh authorities to investigate them in a thorough and transparent manner,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Given the brutality of the attack on Baitailaq and his expected lengthy stay in hospital, we call on Astana police to provide a security detail to ensure his safety.”

  • For more data and analysis on Kazakhstan, visit CPJ’s Kazakhstan page here.