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Kazakhstan21 January 2009

RFE/RL website editor beaten unconscious in Almaty

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about harassment and violence against journalists in Kazakhstan after Ermek Boltay, a young journalist who edits the website of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Kazakh-language service, was beaten unconscious outside his home in Almaty on 18 January.

“We urge the authorities to shed light on this extremely grave attack on Boltay, which comes less than two weeks after the abusive arrest of Ramazan Esergepov,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is inconceivable that a government that does not defend press freedom should take over the presidency of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the near future.”

The attack on Boltay was carried out by group of men who hit him with a glass bottle and kicked him until he lost consciousness. His assailants have not so far been identified.

Esergepov, the editor of the weekly Alma Ata Info, was arrested by members of the National Security Committee (KNB) on 6 January at an Almaty hospital where he had been receiving treatment for cardiac problems and high blood pressure since 25 December. He is now been held by the KNB in the south of the country and has reportedly been mistreated.

The cases of Boltay and Esergepov bring the number of reports of harassment of journalists in Central Asia to four since the start of the month. Two contributors to RFE/RL’s Turkmen service, Dovletmurat Yazguliev and Osman Hallyev, reported two weeks ago that they had been subjected to threats and intimidation by local intelligence officers in neighbouring Turkmenistan.

Ranked 125th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Kazakhstan is due to take over the presidency of the OSCE in 2010.

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