WASHINGTON -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has complained to the Kazakh government that its refusal to accredit two of its journalists is the latest in a series of efforts over the past year to interfere with its operations inside the country.
In a February 19 letter addressed to Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly called the decision to deny credentials to Sanat Urnaliev and Maria Melnikova, who work with RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, known locally as Radio Azattyq, as "arbitrary" and said it was "just the most recent example of lawless behavior directed by your government toward our journalists."
Fly pointed to a decision by the ministry last June to deny credentials to seven reporters with its Current Time network and Kyrgyz and Tajik Services one day before national polls to elect a successor to former President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who resigned in March last year.
At the time, RFE/RL said the refusals directly interfered with media outlet's mission to inform people in Kazakhstan about an event of "profound public interest."
Fly told Tleuberdi that cases of harassment against Kazakh Service journalists in 2019 were "sufficiently serious and numerous" to prompt RFE/RL to send a complaint in July to the office of newly elected President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, the country’s prosecutor-general, and several other cabinet members.
The letter documented physical assaults by provocateurs as well as arbitrary detentions and interrogations by authorities. It also accused Kazakh police of a "willful and repeated failure" to act, even when journalists under assault appealed to officers nearby to stop the attackers – many wearing masks or wielding umbrellas. The letter has gone unanswered.
Fly concluded the February 19 letter by urging the foreign minister to accredit RFE/RL’s journalists promptly and uphold Kazakhstan's international commitments, so that "our journalists can report for the people of Kazakhstan unimpeded, in safety, and without fear."