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Kazakhstan27 April 2004

Newspaper editor released from prison

An appeal court in Aktobe, western Kazakhstan on 26 April ordered the release of Vladimir Mikhailov, managing editor of the independent weekly newspaper Diapazon. The journalist, who had been on hunger strike since 20 April, has spent one and a half months in prison.

Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the case of Vladimir Mikhailov publisher of the independent weekly Diapazon, sentenced to one year in prison for failing to apply a court ruling.

The journalist was sentenced by a court in western Aktobe on 16 March over a case involving the offices of the publishers Arsenal that publishes Diapazon.

The international press freedom organisation said it feared the sentence was designed to put pressure on the newspaper, which has the largest circulation and is the healthiest financially in the Aktobe region, months away from September legislative elections.

"This prison sentence appears to be completely disproportionate to the offence committed by the Arsenal publishing house, of which Mr Mikhailov moreover stopped being proprietor several months ago," the organisation added.

"We would like to be sure that it is not a question of "neutralising" Diapazon so that it stops criticising the local authorities," said Reporters Without Borders.

Marina Vassilievna, editor-in-chief of Diapazon said, "We believe the imprisonment of our boss is the authority’s response to a letter that he sent to the presidential office in February."

"In the letter he said that regional governor Ernek Imantaev had in early January suggested that he should allow one of his men to take over control of Diapazon. When he refused, several legal actions were launched against our newspaper," she said.

Mikhailov was charged with failing to reposition a load-bearing wall of the publishing house by 70 cms to the benefit of the adjoining building firm Aktubrentgen, as he had been ordered by a legal ruling. The journalist has said he plans to appeal.

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