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Kazakh Independent Weekly Faces Closure

Tamara Eslyamova, editor in chief of "Uralskaya nedelya"

Tamara Eslyamova, editor in chief of "Uralskaya nedelya"

ALMATY -- The leading independent weekly in western Kazakhstan, "Uralskaya nedelya," is facing closure because of a court fine, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The periodical's editor in chief, Tamara Eslyamova, said in Almaty that a local court ordered her newspaper to pay the equivalent of $135,000 to a local metal-products company as compensation for publishing incorrect information about the firm.

Eslyamova said the article's information about Metaloizdeliya's alleged tax debts was, in fact, inaccurate, but added that the newspaper is ready to apologize and print a new version of the article. She said paying the fine would mean the closure of her newspaper.

Eslyamova said the main reason for the court's harsh decision is the fact that the Russian-language "Uralskaya nedelya," based in Oral (Uralsk in Russian), is the largest independent newspaper in western Kazakhstan.

Tamara Kaleeva, president of the media rights monitoring group Adil Soz (A Just Word), said that courts are using fines to shut down independent media outlets.

She said similar situations are affecting the independent newspaper "Vzglyad" (Glance), located in central Kazakhstan, and "Megapolis" in Almaty. A court recently ruled that the two newspapers must pay $101,300 each for inaccuracies in their reporting.

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