Journalists watch footage of Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev speaking in Beijing on October 18, 2023. Kazakhstan has denied accreditation to 36 journalists working for Radio Azattyq, the local Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty service.(Reuters/Tingshu Wang)

CPJ calls on Kazakh authorities to accredit 36 RFE/RL journalists

Stockholm, February 2, 2024 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned a recent decision by Kazakh authorities to block accreditation to dozens of journalists working for Radio Azattyq, the local U.S. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty service, and called on authorities to allow the outlet to work freely.

“RFE/RL’s Kazakh service is well known for its hard-hitting and dependable reporting. The mass denial of accreditation to the outlet’s journalists by authorities on such contrived grounds is deeply concerning and seriously undermines President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s stated commitment to freedom of the press,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Kazakh authorities should swiftly issue Radio Azattyq’s correspondents with accreditation and allow the outlet to work freely and without obstruction.”

On January 30, Radio Azattyq filed an appeal against a decision by Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deny accreditation to 36 of the outlet’s correspondents, according to a report by the outlet. Radio Azattyq reported that the ministry notified them of the mass rejection on January 3 this year, and that some of the correspondents have been waiting for accreditation since 2022. Some of the journalists were seeking renewal of accreditation; some were applying for the first time. CPJ was unable to confirm an exact breakdown of accreditation application statuses.

The ministry argued that the journalists had violated accreditation rules by continuing to work while their applications were pending, that report said. The ministry also cited a November 2023 court ruling in which Radio Azattyq was fined 103,500 tenge (US$230) for alleged “false information” by describing the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Eurasian military alliance of which Kazakhstan is a member, as “Russia-led.”

Radio Azattyq’s appeal described the ministry’s arguments as “without merit,” saying it had filed the accreditation applications on time, but the ministry had failed to respond within the statutory two-month period, and that the applications long predated the November 2023 court decision.

On January 26, Kazakh deputies proposed amendments to a draft media law currently under parliamentary consideration that would ban the activity of unaccredited journalists working for foreign news outlets. One of those deputies denied any connection between those proposals and authorities’ refusal to accredit the Radio Azattyq correspondents.