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Kazakhstan30 August 2002

Well-known journalist and human rights activist beaten up

One of Kazakhstan’s best-known journalists and human rights campaigners, Sergei Duvanov, was severely beaten up by three unidentified people on his way home yesterday and hospitalised with serious head injuries.

The attack coincides with publication by Reporters Without Borders and the Damocles Network of a report on their enquiry into the death in detention of the daughter of opposition journalist Lira Baysetova.

Deploring the new attack, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard noted that the situation in Kazakhstan was becoming "more and more dangerous for journalists of the independent media who criticise the police or President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In the space of just a few weeks, two journalists have been severely beaten and the daughter of an opposition journalist had died in dubious circumstances in police hands." He called for those responsible to be arrested and tried.

Duvanov, who is close to the opposition and editor of the magazine Bulletin, published by the International Bureau for Human Rights, is known as one of the government’s fiercest critics. He regularly denounces official harassment of independent media and the opposition and is currently being prosecuted for "harming the honour and dignity" of President Nazarbayev.

According to Rozlana Taulkina, president of the Kazakh organisation "Journalists in Danger," working as a journalist in Kazakhstan now means risking one’s life.

The Reporters Without Borders and Damocles Network fact-finding mission to Almaty last month into the death of Baysetova’s daughter Leyla (for the mission report, see met Duvanov several times. He said he was sure the police had killed her and predicted the authorities would do everything to protect those responsible and hush up the affair.

Duvanov also spoke of the authorities’ attempts to intimidate and exert legal pressure on him. "I’m still free and in good health," he had said, "but this cannot last.

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