Twitter Send to a Friend Facebook Attacks on the Press


Key Developments

» New measures restrict Internet access, bar coverage deemed a security threat.

» With raids and arrests, the authorities silence critics of Zhanaozen crackdown.

Nursultan Nazarbayev's authoritarian government cracked down on critical news coverage with a flurry of early-year legislation and newsroom raids that came just weeks after deadly clashes between police and striking oil workers in the western city of Zhanaozen. In January, in the wake of the December 2011 labor unrest, Nazarbayev's government enacted legislation barring distribution of print or electronic news that the authorities deem a threat to national security. The authorities also imposed new regulations that require Internet café managers to block access to blacklisted websites and proxy servers, monitor client activity, and share client information with government security services. A third measure requires international broadcasters airing programming in Kazakhstan to register with the state. The government also deployed KNB security agents to harass news media that covered the violent crackdown against the strikers, which left 16 civilians dead. Agents raided the independent broadcaster Stan TV, demanded its recorded material concerning Zhanaozen, and interrogated its 15 journalists about the clashes. The KNB also detained editor Igor Vinyavsky for several weeks and intimidated his family and colleagues when they denounced the arrest. In November, just weeks after Kazakhstan was elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council, authorities asked the courts to shut dozens of critical news outlets on extremism and mass disorder charges in connection to their reporting on Zhanaozen clashes. Unknown assailants shot and stabbed Lukpan Akhmedyarov, an award-winning journalist who had criticized official actions in Zhanaozen. He was among five critical news reporters who were brutally attacked in separate assaults during the year. All of the attacks remained unsolved in late year.

  • 51

    Days jailed
  • 5

    Brutal attacks
  • 5

    Million tenge
  • 3

    Restrictive measures

In January, the authorities arrested Igor Vinyavsky on anti-state charges based on allegations that he distributed a leaflet calling for Nazarbayev's ouster. Colleagues said the charges were motivated instead by his critical coverage of the Zhanaozen clashes

Timeline of an imprisonment:

January 23:

KNB agents detain Vinyavsky, raiding his apartment and newspaper, the daily Vzglyad.

January 26:

A district court in Almaty approves the pretrial detention.

February 2:

KNB agents raid the newspaper Golos Respubliki and interrogate editor Oksana Makushina after she condemns Vinyavsky's imprisonment.

February 16:

CPJ calls on Nazarbayev to release Vinyavsky.

March 15:

The authorities release Vinyavsky and grant him amnesty.

Reporter Lukpan Akhmedyarov was among five journalists targeted in severe assaults during the year. Akhmedyarov underwent emergency surgery in April after unidentified assailants in the western city of Uralsk shot and stabbed him multiple times. Akhmedyarov, a journalist for the independent newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya, had criticized the regional government's actions in Zhanaozen. Regional police detained four suspects in the assault but soon released them, citing insufficient evidence.

Other severe attacks:

February 25:

Independent journalist Zharkynbek Seytinbet is hospitalized with a lacerated skull and a concussion after unidentified assailants beat him with a metal rod outside his home in Shymkent, the local press freedom group Adil Soz reported.

March 7:

Geniy Tulegenov, editor of Sportinfo, suffers a concussion after an unidentified man storms into his newsroom and punches him in the face, Adil Soz reported.

August 8:

Independent reporter Ularbek Baitailaq is hospitalized for several weeks after four unidentified assailants beat him in an Astana suburb.

August 13:

Three unidentified assailants try to strangle prominent sports journalist Maksim Kartashov outside his Astana apartment.

In July, a regional court in western Kazakhstan ordered Akhmedyarov and his paper, Uralskaya Nedelya, to pay damages of 5 million tenge (about US$33,300) to Tlekkabyl Imashev, a regional government official. The ruling stemmed from an article that attributed the official's rise in the government ranks to his family connections, local press reports said. Kazakh officials have a record of filing defamation complaints as a way to silence critical journalists.

Other lawsuits, according to the local press freedom group Adil Soz:

100 million tenge sought:

Former parliament member Amangeldy Momyshev sought damages from the independent newspaper Vremya and a staff reporter over an article that questioned the authenticity of a gift to a foster home. The case was pending in late year.

5 million tenge sought:

Anuarbek Maymakov, head of a regional hospital, sought damages from journalists Khabiddin Rakhmanberdiyev and Anar Suleyeva over an article that blamed doctors for a patient's death. The case was pending in late year.

5 million tenge awarded:

Sarybay Kalmurzayev, former head of Kazakhstan's financial police, won a damage award against Gulzhan Yergaliyeva, editor of news website Guljan. The suit stemmed from articles that accused the police of corruption.


The national security law signed by Nazarbayev in January bars distribution of news deemed a threat, but it does not explain the criteria to be used in determining a threat. The measure also allows state officials to order telecommunication companies and broadcasters to halt their activities when the government declares it is engaging in an anti-terrorist operation.

Other measures taking effect in 2012:

Online restrictions:

Under regulations approved in December 2011 and taking effect in January 2012, Internet café proprietors must seek client identification, block access to proxy servers, keep records of client browsing activity, and share client information with security services on demand.

Broadcast regulations:

In January, Nazarbayev signed into law a measure that required foreign broadcasters to register with the state; banned programming deemed threatening to children (while providing no criteria); and thwarted independent membership on the broadcast licensing board.

Other Languages


Book Cover Support CPJ: Purchase a copy of Attacks on the Press in 2012

Slideshow: Year in Photos

Slideshow: Year in Photos

Attacks on the Press 2012 »

Social Media

View All ›