New York, September 27, 2018–Kazakh authorities should allow French journalist Vincent Prado and his local fixer Danara Ismetova to work without obstruction, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. Prado and Ismetova were briefly detained by police this morning, before a judge fined Prado and banned the journalist from filming in the Manghystau region of Kazakhstan, the scene of a deadly protest in 2011, according to media reports.
“Detaining and banning a journalist in a matter of hours, just for covering an important but sensitive issue, is a sign of weakness from the Kazakh authorities, who appear determined to control the free flow of information,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Research Associate Gulnoza Said. “Authorities should overrule the ban and fine, and ensure that Vincent Prado and all journalists can cover important stories without fear of retaliation.”
Police detained Prado and his interpreter Ismetova in the western city of Aktau, where they were interviewing witnesses to the 2011 protests, according to media reports. Prado and Ismetova were briefly held at a local police station. Prado was later taken to an administrative court, where a judge banned Prado from filming in the region and ordered him to pay a fine of 60,000 Kazakh tenge (US$166) for “violating migration laws,” Prado told the local service of U.S. Congress-funded radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Prado was reporting for the French media outlets Front Line and M6, and had press accreditation, French media reported. Tamara Kaleyeva, the head of local press freedom organization Adil Soz, wrote in her Facebook post that when he applied to the Foreign Ministry for accreditation, Prado indicated the areas of “Almaty and Astana” as being places from which e planned to report.
The journalist was working on a story about authorities’ violent reaction to a protest by oil workers in the southwestern town of Zhanaozen in 2011. Kazakhstan’s law enforcement opened fire on the demonstrators, killing at least a dozen people, according to Freedom House’s 2012 report. Following the incident, dozens of prominent activists were jailed and independent and opposition media outlets were banned, according to media reports.