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Lukpan Akhmedyarov
ORAL, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan's western city of Oral has again fined an opposition journalist for libel.

Lukpan Akhmedyarov and his employer, the "Uralskaya nedelya" weekly, were ordered to pay 1.5 million tenges ($7,700) to a local finance police officer for allegedly insulting him in an article.

In July, Akhmedyarov was found guilty of insulting a local official and ordered to pay him 5 million tenges ($33,000).

The international media group Reporters Without Borders condemned the court's decision then.

The group called it a move "to strangle the journalist financially."

In April, Akhmedyarov survived a vicious attack in which he was stabbed and shot with an air pistol.

Last month, Akhmedyarov received the prestigious Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism at a ceremony in the United States.
Neelie Kroes
BAKU -- European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes of the Netherlands was barred from visiting a penitentiary hospital in Baku, despite President Ilham Aliyev's permission to do so.

Kroes told journalists in Baku that she met with Azerbaijan's president on November 6 and he agreed she could visit the hospital to observe the conditions for inmates there.

Kroes said that when she arrived at the prison hospital, officials would not allow her into the building.

She said that in her country, "if a president says something, it is always done, as in any democratic country."

A spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Penitentiary Service, Mehman Sadiqov, told RFE/RL that Kroes’ visit to the penitentiary hospital did not take place because of "protocol issues."

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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