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A police officer in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on July 18, 2016. Journalist Saniya Toiken was recently arrested and fined after covering protests in the Kazakh city of Zhanaozen. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

Kazakhstan journalist fined after covering protests

March 14, 2019 4:13 PM ET

New York, March 14, 2019 -- Kazakhstan authorities should not contest journalist Saniya Toiken's appeal of a fine imposed in response to her coverage of protests, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On March 11, police arrested Toiken, a reporter for the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Kazakh-language service, after she interviewed protesters in the southwestern city of Zhanaozen who were demanding better jobs, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ, and her employer.

Toiken was held in detention overnight and, on March 12, an administrative court found her guilty of refusing to follow police orders and fined her 50,500 tenges ($134), according to RFE/RL.

This is the third time Toiken has been detained in the past month while covering protests in Zhanaozen, according to RFE/RL's Kazakh-language service director Torokul Doorov, who spoke with CPJ.

"Kazakhstan authorities should stop harassing Saniya Toiken and other journalists who report on social issues," said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna. "We call on the Kazakh authorities not to contest Toiken's appeal and to let her work without obstruction."

Toiken denies refusing the orders of police officers at the protest or when she was arrested, and told CPJ that she believes the charge to be politically motivated to create obstacles to her reporting. She told CPJ that she has 10 days to appeal the verdict, and she plans to do so.

CPJ's phone calls to Kazakhstan's ministry of interior and the ministry's regional branch covering Zhanaozen went unanswered.

Toiken's previous two detentions were brief, with police questioning her over her coverage of the protests and releasing her without charges, Doorov told CPJ.

Zhanaozen was the site of violent clashes between oil-field workers and law enforcement in 2011, which resulted in at least 15 deaths and the detention and harassment of many journalists in the region, as CPJ reported at the time.

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