New York, March 8, 2021 – Kazakh authorities should investigate police officers’ assault and harassment of journalists Bakhrambek Talibzhanov and Bakhrom Abdullaev, and ensure that members of the press can work freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
In the early hours of March 2, in the southern city of Shymkent, police confronted Abdullaev, a correspondent for the broadcaster 31 Arna, and Talibzhanov, a correspondent for broadcaster Astana TV, while they filmed a fire at a storage facility, according to news reports and Talibzhanov, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.
A police officer ordered Abdullaev to move further from the fire, but the journalist refused, saying he was already far enough away, Talibzhanov told CPJ. Several officers started pushing Abdullaev, and Talibzhanov said he tried to intervene to break up the scuffle.
Three officers then grabbed Talibzhanov by his arms and a leg and started dragging him away, and another policeman punched him in the face and in his left kidney, he said.
Police took Talibzhanov and Abdullaev to the Abay district police department, where the journalists wrote statements accusing the officers of preventing them from performing their work and intentionally inflicting bodily harm, according to news reports and Talibzhanov. The journalists were then released without charge, Talibzhanov said.
“Kazakh law enforcement should conduct fair and thorough investigation into police officers’ mistreatment of journalists Bakhrambek Talibzhanov and Bakhrom Abdullaev,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Authorities must ensure that journalists can work freely and without fear, and police should protect journalists instead of harassing and attacking them.”
Talibzhanov and Abdullaev had both told police at the time of the attacks that they were journalists, Talibzhanov said. Talibzhanov’s lip was swollen and bloodied in the assault, and he received bruising around his kidney, he said.
The police department is conducting an internal investigation into the incident, according to those reports and a statement by Shymkent police head Eraly Dzhymakhanbetov.
CPJ emailed the Shymkent police department and messaged the department’s official Facebook page for comment, but did not receive any responses.