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TV Station Reports Attack On Its Journalists In West Kazakhstan

Kazakh journalist Orken Zhoyamergen
Kazakh journalist Orken Zhoyamergen
AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- An independent online television company says two of its journalists were attacked with baseball bats and one of them shot with a rubber bullet in the western Kazakh city of Aqtau, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Stan-TV deputy chief editor Zhuldyz Toleuova told RFE/RL that correspondent Orken Zhoyamergen and cameraman Asan Amilov were attacked on the morning of October 26 by unknown assailants.

According to Toleuova, four men came out of a white Toyota Prado and attacked the pair as they were leaving an apartment in the city.

"The attackers used baseball bats and shot one of the journalists in the back with a rubber bullet," Toleuova said. "They then took Orken Zhoyamergen's notebook and left the scene. Amilov is in very serious condition. He has a serious head injury and his legs are injured. He lost a lot of blood. Zhoyamergen is able to walk and talk."

Toleuova added that "the journalists were planning to interview local oil and gas corporation officials about the ongoing strike by oil workers in the region."

In a statement, the Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders called the attack "shocking" and urged the authorities to investigate swiftly and impartially.

Zhoyamergen told RFE/RL by phone that he is not able to talk at the moment. He corroborated Toleuova's information that Amilov sustained a serious head injury.

Bazarkhan Zhuzbaeva, the Manghystau Oblast Interior Affairs Department's representative, told RFE/RL that she has no details of the incident.

Toleuova told RFE/RL that the attack is most likely connected with the journalists' professional activities.

According to her, these two journalists have been covering the ongoing strike by oil workers in Manghystau Oblast since May.

Last month an Almaty court ruled Stan-TV must stop using the antennae on the roof of its Almaty offices because they are endangering the health of nearby residents.

In August, Stan-TV editors Elina Zhdanova and Baurzhan Musirov said the company had been subjected to intrusive inspections because of its independent news coverage.

Stan-TV is funded by fugitive Kazakh businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov, who lives in self-imposed exile in England.

The station -- which covers Central Asia in video reports posted on its website -- often publishes reports critical of the Kazakh government and some of its officials.

Read more in Kazakh here