Stockholm, May 12, 2023—Kazakh authorities should swiftly investigate a recent suspected arson attack on a vehicle belonging to journalist Viktor Sutyagin and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
At about 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 11, an unidentified individual was seen on security footage approaching Sutyagin’s car in the western city of Atyrau; seconds later, the footage shows a small explosion and the car on fire.
Sutyagin, a local correspondent for Kazakhstan’s state news agency Kazinform, told CPJ and local media outlets that his vehicle was destroyed in the blaze. In a statement on Telegram, Kazakh police said they had opened a criminal investigation into the intentional destruction of property.
Sutyagin told CPJ that he was “a journalist who doesn’t keep quiet” on controversial topics and has therefore “crossed many people,” but said it was too early to know whether the attack was related to his work. Those news reports said he is also a member of a local citizen’s council in Atyrau.
“The suspected arson attack on journalist Viktor Sutyagin’s car is yet another worrying reminder of the dangers and harassment journalists in Kazakhstan face on an all too frequent basis,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Kazakh authorities must thoroughly investigate this attack, establish whether it was related to his journalism, and hold all perpetrators to account, including anyone who may have ordered it.”
Sutyagin told CPJ he did not want to speculate on particular coverage that may have led to the attack. He often writes critically on his Facebook page, where he has 5,800 followers, and has posted about topics including potential price hikes for garbage collection in Atyrau and the privatization of city land for construction, according to CPJ’s review of his page.
In January, arsonists destroyed a vehicle belonging to independent journalist and activist Dinara Yegeubayeva and in February set fire to two cars belonging to camera operator Roman Yegorov.
CPJ emailed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan for comment but did not receive any response.