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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

MARCH 9, 2004
Posted: April 21, 2004

Irina Petrushova, Assandi Times

Petrushova, editor of the Kazakh opposition weekly Assandi Times and a 2002 CPJ International Press Freedom awardee, was detained by police in St. Petersburg, Russia, for more than four hours. She had gone to the station to register her residency in the city, as required by law, when she was arrested on a recently released arrest warrant from Kazakhstan for allegedly violating Kazakh tax laws.

The Russian police released Petrushova unconditionally after four hours, saying that they did not want to get involved in Kazakh political matters, local reports said.

Petrushova, who continues to edit her newspaper from Russia, was forced to leave Kazakhstan for security reasons in the fall of 2002 after she had endured a sustained campaign of harassment for her reporting on official corruption. For example, between 2000 and 2002, Petrushova's newspaper, Delovoye Obozrenie Respublika (now Assandi Times), was forced to change its printer numerous times after government officials intimidated printers into cutting off their services to the paper. In March 2002, Petrushova received a funeral wreath from an anonymous sender. And in May 2002, Respublika staff in Almaty found a decapitated dog's corpse hanging from an office window with an attached note that read: "There won't be a next time." Three days after this incident, Respublika's offices were firebombed. That same year, Petrushova and Respublika were also subjected to various politically motivated lawsuits.

MARCH 17, 2004
Posted: April 21, 2004

Vladimir Mikhailov, Rifma Ltd., Diapazon weekly

A court in the northwestern city of Aktobe sentenced Mikhailov, director of Rifma Ltd. media company and founder of the opposition weekly Diapazon, to one year in prison for failing to comply with a 2002 court order to move an outside wall in the rental space of Arsenal, a publishing house that prints Diapazon. The court order had claimed that Arsenal was occupying property belonging to Aktyubrentgen, a construction company.

Yevgeny Zhovtis, director of the Almaty-based Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, told CPJ that it is unclear why the court held Mikhailov responsible for moving a wall of a building that belongs to a publishing house that he neither owns nor heads. Zhovtis said that the court decision is practically impossible to implement without demolishing the Arsenal building, since the outside wall in question supports the building's roof.

Diapazon, which has the largest circulation in Aktobe, has annoyed city administration, the Prosecutor-General's office, and local judges for years with its critical reporting. According to the Almaty-based media foundation Adil Soz, the legal action against Mikhailov and Arsenal is an attempt by city administrators to financially destroy the publication.

Mikhailov's March 17 sentence was preceded by a raid on Arsenal by Aktobe police. On January 27, an armed special task unit entered the offices of the publishing house, tied up the building's security guards, forbade the staff to move, and confiscated Arsenal's staff roster with a list of job assignments, Adil Soz reported. The search was ordered by the Aktobe Prosecutor-General's office allegedly because of Mikhailov's noncompliance with the court decision, local reports said.

MARCH 17, 2004
Posted: April 21, 2004

Gennady Benditsky, Vremya weekly

Benditsky, a journalist with the Almaty-based opposition weekly Vremya, was charged with criminal defamation by Asygat Zhabagin, director of the Republican Innovation Fund (RIF), following Benditsky's article about RIF's reported embezzlement of government money. The article was published in Vremya on November 20, 2003.

In the course of the trial, which was highly publicized in Kazakhstan, neither Zhabagin nor his defense team managed to disprove the well-documented allegations that Benditsky made in his article.

On March 17, the Almaty City Court acquitted Benditsky. The court victory was termed a triumph for Kazakhstan's media.