Police officers are seen in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on June 12, 2019. A group of journalists were recently attacked at a press conference in Almaty. (Reuters/Pavel Mikheyev)

Demonstrators attack reporters, damage equipment at press conference in Kazakhstan

July 25, 2019 12:30 PM ET

Washington, D.C., July 25, 2019 -- Kazakhstan authorities should immediately investigate the attack on journalists at a press conference in Almaty and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On July 22 in Almaty, the economic capital, approximately 20 women disrupted a press conference held by a local human rights group, and five of the women assaulted reporters covering the conference, according to news reports.

Police arrived and detained one of the women, according to regional news website Fergana News.

"This brazen attack on reporters at a human rights press conference is despicable. Authorities must get to the bottom of it and hold those responsible to account," said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. "Journalists should be able to cover newsworthy events without being harassed, and authorities should work to ensure their safety."

The women shouted at the journalists not to film and punched Nurgul Tapaeva, a reporter for the Kazakh service of U.S.-Congress funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and broke a camera held by her camera operator, Tokmolda Kusainov, according to a report by their employer.

The women also damaged the camera of a crew from local broadcaster Almaty TV and seized the camera from an operator working for private news agency KazTag, according a report by KazTag.

The attack occurred at the headquarters of Kazakhstan's Bureau for Human Rights, an Almaty-based nongovernmental organization, which had organized the conference to discuss the cases of three women imprisoned for participating in unsanctioned protests, according to those reports.

Yevgeny Zhovtis, the organization's director, told news website Vlast.kz that the group plans to submit a complaint against one police officer who was present during the attack but did not intervene. The journalists have already submitted complaints to the local police about the attack, KazTag reported.

The Almaty police did not respond to CPJ's emailed request for comment.

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