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Kazakh Report: May 23, 2002


23 May 2002

JOURNALISTS ORGANIZATIONS CONDEMN ATTACKS ON MEDIA
Seiytqazy Matayev, the chairman of Kazakh Journalists' Union, Tamara Kaleeva, Chairwoman of Adil Soz and Oleg Katsiev, the - Director of Internews-Kazakhstan News Agency held a press conference in Almaty's National Press Club on 23 Mayat which they told journalists they have sent an open letter to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the government demanding that an investigation into the attacks on the newspapers "SolDat" and "Delovoye Obozreniye - Respublika" be started as soon as possible.

In the early morning of May 22, persons threw several Molotov cocktails into the office of "Delovoye Obozreniye-Respublika." Firefighters arrived only after the offices were completely destroyed. The periodical's editor-in-chief Irina Petrusheva told RFE/RL that a couple of days before the Molotov cocktail attack some unknown persons had thrown the decapitated body of a dog into the newspaper's office. She said the Almaty police have refused to register either incident, and claimed the attack on the paper was politically motivated.

Matayev on 23 May said that the first part of this year could be described as a black period for journalists in Kazakhstan. He called for solidarity among journalists and expressed his hope that the latest attempts to crack down on independent mass media in Kazakhstan will be fully investigated and all the persons involved will be punished in accordance with Kazakh laws.

Tamara Kaleeva said that the latest events clearly demonstrate Kazakh officials' attempt to crack down on the remnants of the free press in Kazakhstan. She added that all the attacks on independent mass media in Kazakhstan were not organized by hooligans or criminals, but links of one chain called "attack against press freedom." Oleg Katsiev in his turn compared the attacks against media outlets in Kazakhstan with fascism, saying that if things continue the same way, journalists will start being murdered in Kazakhstan. He appealed to all journalists and "all those who cares about the democratic future and freedom of Kazakhstan" to unite and withstand attacks against press freedom.

JOURNALISTS EXCLUDED FROM TALKS BETWEEN KAZAKH SENATORS AND GERMAN BUNDESTAG DEPUTY
Journalists were not allowed to be present at talks between Kazakh Senators Zhabaykhan Abdildin (Chairman of Senate's Committee on International Affairs, Defense and Security), Ermek Zhumabay (Chairman of Senate's Committee on Laws and Legislative Reforms) and a visiting member of German Bundestag in Astana on May 23. It was reported afterwards that the sides discussed human rights in Kazakhstan and the state of democratic reforms in the country.

SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION'S 'BISHKEK GROUP' HOLDS ITS THIRD SESSION
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization's so-called "Bishkek Group" held its third session in Astana on May 22. The "Bishkek Group" was established at the organization's summit in the Kyrgyz capital in 1999. It consists of the Security Council leaders and Interior Ministers of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan did not, however, send representatives to the "Bishkek Group" session in Astana, which is discussing joint efforts against religious extremism, drug trafficking, separatism and international terrorism.

LAWYERS AND COLLEAGUES OF MUKHTAR ABLIYAZOV AND GHALYMZHAN ZHAQIYANOV DEMAND THEIR RIGHTS BE RESPECTED
At a press conference in Astana on 23 May, lawyers and colleagues of two leaders of the opposition movement Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice, Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov and Mukhtar Abliyazov, demanded that their rights be respected. According to Zauresh Battalova, a member of the Senate (the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament), Kazakh officials even refused to permit Zhaqiyanov's doctor, who travelled to Pavlodar from Moscow, to visit his client. She also said that letters demanding Zhaqiyanov's release have been sent to some Foreign Embassies in Kazakhstan and to the Kazakh government.

Battalova also said that Abliyazov has refused to continue studying the materials of his case. He and his lawyers, as well as Zhaqiyanov and his lawyers, say that all the charges of financial abuses brought against them by Kazakh officials are politically motivated.

On 22 May,the leaders of Communists, POKOLENIYE (Generation) movement, Republican People Party of Kazakhstan and other organizations in Semey (Semipalatinsk Oblast) gathered in the city center to demand Zhaqiyanov's immediate release from custody.

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