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Kazakhstan30 November 2007

Kazakh presidency of OSCE deplored

Reporters Without Borders condemns a decision by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe at a ministerial-level meeting in Madrid yesterday that Kazakhstan will take over the OSCE’s rotating presidency in 2010. Oil-rich Kazakhstan was ranked 125th out of 169 countries in this year’s Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index.

(JPEG) “A country where press freedom stops as soon as the president or ruling party is called into question is not an appropriate choice to preside the OSCE, an organisation that defends democratic values,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are disturbed by the thought of a Kazakh presidency as it could undermine the work of an organisation whose work until now has earned a great deal of respect.”

Cases of journalists being harassed are common in Kazakhstan. There has been no let-up in the pressure on government opponents and journalists in recent month. Blockage of opposition websites, obstruction of the printing and distribution of independent newspapers and confiscation of newspaper issues critical of the government were among the free speech violations noted by the OSCE last year.

Abusive use is often made of the laws governing media activity, and opposition access to the press is limited. Journalists are subjected to violence, intimidation and abuse of authority. The editor of an opposition weekly, Batyrkhan Darimbet, died on 2 August in very suspicious circumstances and may have been killed because of articles criticising the authorities.

(JPEG) Kazakhstan would be the first former Soviet republic to head the OSCE. Most of the European countries, including Germany and France, supported Kazakhstan’s candidacy, arguing that it embarked on serious democratic reforms this year. Britain and the United States did not express the same degree of support because they think its democratic record is deplorable.

Reelected with 91 per cent of the vote, President Nursultan Nazarbayev is an autocrat. Political pluralism is non-existent. Kazakhstan’s failure to meet international standards were yet again highlighted in an OSCE report in August.

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