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Kazakhstan15 March 2004

Sports journalist beaten up

Sports journalist Maxim Khartashov, who has frequently lifted the lid on corruption in the world of sport, was set upon and beaten up by two unidentified assailants in Almaty on 11 March.

Reporters Without Borders expressed its concern about the attack on the journalist for the opposition weekly Vremya, the second incident involving a sports journalist in less than a month.

"The editor-in-chief of the weekly Sport & KS was dismissed because he criticised the authorities and Maxim Khartashov was attacked most likely because of the articles he wrote," said the organisation.

"These journalists should be able to do their job without obstruction and without fearing for their safety, in the same way as other members of the profession," said Reporters Without Borders, calling on those leading the investigation into the attack to focus their inquiries on the connection with his work.

One of the men followed Khartashov as he left the newspaper around 5pm on 11 March, while another waited for him in front of his home. A few minutes earlier unknown callers phoned his home and the newspaper to find out where he was.

The journalist, who suffered head and facial injuries, is still being treated in hospital.

Khartashov said he believed the attack was linked to his work, because the two men did not attempt to rob him. He believed it could have been in reprisal for his articles exposing drug scandals, match-fixing and embezzlement in the sports world.

Reporters Without Borders recalled that on 12 February 2004, Nesip Zhunusbayev, of the weekly Sport & KS, was dismissed by the Minister of Tourism and Sport, Daulet Turlykhanov, because he had been too critical of the government on sports issues.

In an article published in January, he criticised training and preparation of the country’s athletes six months ahead of the Athens Olympics, speaking out against the privatisation of several sports bodies and calling for more government backing for the development of sport in rural areas.

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