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RFE/RL Journalists Stopped From Covering Astana Protest, Briefly Detained


RFE/RL correspondent Orken Zhoyamergen was one of those detained. (file photo)

ASTANA -- Police in Astana, Kazakhstan, briefly detained an RFE/RL reporter and cameraman on January 9 when they tried to cover a protest in front of the government's headquarters.

RFE/RL correspondent Orken Zhoyamergen says he and cameraman Erzhan Amirkhanov were trying to film several women involved in the protest when police stopped them and took them to a nearby police station.

Zhoyamergen said he did not have a chance to interview the protesters, who also were detained.

Police later told the RFE/RL journalists that they were detained "by mistake," Zhoyamergen said.

Zhoyamergen said police also asked him and Amirkhanov to delete all the footage they had recorded of the demonstration.

But he said they refused on the grounds that they were doing their jobs in a public space, their photos and video footage was their private property, and nobody had the authority to force them to destroy the materials.

Zhoyamergen said police did not insist on the destruction of the footage and later released them.

Zhoyamergen says he later learned that the women were calling for the immediate release of journalist Toqbergen Abiev, who was sentenced in December to one year in prison after a court in Astana found him guilty of illegally interfering in the activities of state bodies and courts.

The protesters insist the charges against Abiev were politically motivated.

The fate of the detained protesters was not immediately clear.

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