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Kazakhstan19 April 2003

Editor of opposition newspaper beaten up

Reporters Without Borders protested today at the beating up by thugs of newspaper editor Maxim Yeroshin a few days after he had denounced corruption by President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his aides.

Yeroshin, founder and editor of the opposition paper Rabat, was attacked and beaten by strangers near his home in the southern town of Shimkent late on 16 April and was hospitalised with multiple head injuries.

"He is the third journalist who has been physically attacked in the last eight months, each time after they had criticised the government," said Reporters Without Border secretary-general Robert Ménard. "This is very disturbing and we call on the authorities to thoroughly investigate the attack on Yeroshin and punish those responsible;

"There used to be more press freedom in Kazakhstan than in other Central Asian countries but it has become increasingly dangerous to be a journalist there."

Yeroshin’s colleagues said he was probably attacked because of an article in the paper on 10 April about the luxury villas the president and other top officials were building illegally inside the country’s nature reserves. Yeroshin himself said: "Look in the paper and see who stands out among those mentioned."

Artur Platonov, co-producer and presenter of "Portret nedely," the main political programme of the independent TV station KTK, was attacked by three thugs in front of his home in Almaty on 16 August last year. Journalist and human rights activist Sergei Duvanov, editor of the opposition magazine Bulletin, published by the International Bureau for Human Rights, and a leading government critic, was badly beaten up by three thugs on his way home on 28 August last. He was sentenced on 11 March this year to three and a half years in prison for the supposed rape of a minor after a trial where the right of defence was frequently violated and a prior investigation was marred by many irregularities.

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