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Kazakhstan: Authorities Discuss Possible Media-Law Changes

Astana, 4 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh parliamentary deputies today discussed the possibility of making changes to the laws on mass media, following the brutal attack on independent journalist Sergei Duvanov (pictured) last week. Deputy Erasyl Abilqasymov condemned the beating of opposition journalists, but said drastic measures should be taken to prevent "dirty publications, insulting the dignity of President Nursultan Nazarbaev and presenting Kazakhstan as a country not respecting human rights."

Yesterday, officials from the Interior Ministry, the Committee of National Security, and editors from leading Kazakh media outlets met in Astana to discuss some of the problems facing independent journalists. Some of the editors complained that Kazakh officials often do not cooperate with journalists.

On 27 August, Duvanov was severely beaten in front of his apartment. Duvanov had written an article investigating secret Swiss bank accounts allegedly belonging to Nazarbaev and his family.

In other news, Kazakhstan says it has freed more than 10,500 inmates under an amnesty declared last year to mark the 10th anniversary of the country's independence.

Petr Posmakov, head of Kazakhstan's penal system, today said that as of the end of last month, 91 percent of the prisoners who qualified under the amnesty had been freed.

But human rights advocates say the amnesty will have little effect on the country's overcrowded prisons. Zhemis Turmagambetova, deputy director of the International Bureau for Human Rights in Kazakhstan, said prisons will quickly be filled up by new prisoners convicted of all kinds of crimes.

With 528 inmates per 100,000 people, Kazakhstan has the world's third-largest per capita incarceration rate, after the U.S. and Russia.