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RSF Criticizes Silencing Of Kazakh Opposition Papers

29 September 2005 -- The media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has criticized a Kazakh printing house for backing out of its contracts to print seven opposition newspapers without any explanation.

The move comes two months ahead of a presidential election that has prompted international appeals for incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev to ensure fair and democratic voting.

The Vremya-Print printing house said on 26 September that it will no longer publish the newspapers, which RSF listed as "Svoboda Slova," "Epokha," "Pravda Kazakhstana," "Apta.Kz," "Azat," "Jouma-Times," and "Soz," the last of which has published reports from "Respublika" since it was banned by authorities.

The chief prosecutor's office said some of the newspapers were shut down for violating licensing rules, a charge that newspaper representatives counter is false.

Editors of the newspapers say Vremya-Print's refusal to publish is a government attempt to shut down the opposition's voice ahead of the 4 December presidential vote.

Reporters Without Borders said it is concerned because the print media have been the main source of independent news in the country as all the television stations are controlled by the family or associates of President Nazarbaev.