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Kazakhstan20 May 2005

Police cordon set up around newspaper Set KZ publishers

Kazakh police on 20 May 2005 threw a cordon around Vremya-Print, the publishers that print the newspaper Set KZ, formerly Respublika that has been banned on the orders of the culture ministry. The 8am operation was designed to ensure the newspaper did not appear. The newspaper‚s journalists held a press conference later the same day to protest against the decision that they say is completely illegal, since Set KZ has obtained all the necessary legal documents to be registered.

6 May 2005 Appeal to president after closure of major opposition newspaper

Reporters Without Borders has protested in a letter to the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev against the Kazakh authorities’ decision to close opposition weekly Respublika and its sister papers Respublika Delovoe Obozrenie and Respublika Analitichesky Ezhenedelnik.

"This order to close a major opposition newspaper, through a highly dubious court ruling, constitutes a serious attack on pluralism of information in Kazakhstan," the worldwide press freedom organisation said in the 6 May letter.

"Reporters Without Borders is concerned about this escalating deterioration in press freedom. A climate of repression towards the opposition should not be allowed to take hold in the country, following the overthrow of the regime of President Askar Akayev in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, for fear of seriously destabilising the entire republic of Kazakhstan."

"We call on [President Nazarbayev] to immediately put an end to these unacceptable pressures and this hounding by the courts of a major opposition weekly. The legal system cannot be used as a tool in hands of the executive to silence dissident voices. This is not worthy of a democratic country."

The appeal court on 4 May upheld the decision of the Almaty regional court on 25 March 2005, ordering the liquidation of the company Bastau, owner of Respublika., a decision already protested by Reporters Without Borders. The opposition weekly and Bastau now have ten days to lodge an appeal against the decision before the Supreme Court.

They were taken to court for having picked up in an article carried by Respublika Delovoe Obozrenie on 20 January 2005 an interview with Vladimir Jirinovsky, leader of the Russian nationalist party Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), in which he criticised Kazakhstan’s policies towards its Russian neighbour. An editorial in Respublika agreed with Jirinovsky’s remarks, which led to the authorities charging the paper with "violating the integrity of the Republic of Kazakhstan."

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Sport sent a notice to the paper on 5 May ordering its immediate closure based on the ruling of the appeal court without further explanation. In fact, Respublika Analitichesky Ezhenedelnik, sister paper of the opposition weekly, changed proprietor in February and no longer belongs to Bastau. The edict closing the newspaper is therefore completely illegal.

The ruling was sent to all publishing houses in Almaty as well as to all distribution companies in central Kazakhstan. The weekly’s editor, Irina Petrushova, who has been living in exile in Russia since 2002 after receiving death threats, has decided to cancel the paper’s next edition. It was devoted to the assassination attempt against opposition leader Jarmahan Tuyakbay, in Shymkent in the south of the country.

Respublika was forced to halt publication in similar circumstances in May 2002, when following a complaint from the Culture ministry, the firm PR-Konsalting, the paper’s previous owner, had been liquidated.

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