A Kazakh soldier stands in front of the national flag at the presidential palace in Astana, in 2014. CPJ is joining calls for the country to revise its repressive press laws. (AFP/Alain Jocard)

CPJ joins calls for Kazakhstan to revise false news law and drop charges against critical media

By Gulnoza Said/CPJ Europe and Central Asia Research Associate on May 18, 2018 5:21 PM ET

The Committee to Protect Journalists today joined a coalition of 25 other international press freedom organizations to call on Kazakh authorities to drop criminal defamation cases against media outlets Forbes Kazakhstan and Ratel and revise the law on dissemination of "false information" often used to silence critical media outlets and journalists.

CPJ has documented how authorities used these repressive laws to raid the newsrooms of Forbes Kazakhstan and Ratel, confiscate equipment, detain and question journalists, and block news websites and Facebook pages. The action against Forbes Kazakhstan and Ratel came after the outlets reported in 2016 allegations of corruption against a former government minister.

The former minister, Zeinulla Kakimzhanov, and his son, Ilkhalid, filed a defamation complaint claiming the outlets spread false information. Four separate cases are being heard against the outlets. In April 2017, an Almaty court ordered the two outlets and four journalists to pay 50 million Kazakh tenge (US$160,000) in damages, according to local media reports. The three other cases are ongoing.

The joint IFEX letter to Kazakhstan's prosecutor general, Supreme Court, Parliament, and Minister of Information and Communications, called for the law, which levies disproportionate penalties against journalists and media outlets, to be revised and highlighted the threat that such legislation poses to critical reporting and press freedom.

To read the letter, click here.

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