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Free Media Eliminated in Kazakhstan, Journalists Say

(Washington, DC--July 27, 2001) Two independent journalists from Kazakhstan told an RFE/RL audience last week that there is "no more opposition press nor independent media in the country" because of the government's sophisticated methods of intimidation and legal controls.

Sergey Duvanov, an independent journalist who has started several media outlets that have been closed by official pressure, said that President Nursultan Nazarbayev is "one of the smart post-Soviet dictators, who like Putin, does not have to kill journalists to render them ineffective." Duvanov said the government carefully monitors coverage of government corruption, and often charges journalists with "insulting the dignity and honor of the President" if they dig too deeply into corruption-related news stories.

His colleague, Tatiana Deltsova, who had served as news director and anchor on Channel 31's nightly news program, said that she was fired in March 2000 not only because of her program's coverage of repression directed at opposition politicians, but also a preventative measure to keep Channel 31 from airing a series of investigative reports looking into corruption on the part of Nazarbayev and his family who control major segments of the media, banking and oil sectors.

Duvanov noted that in addition to the deployment of tax police against journalists and media companies, the state security service, the KNB, pressures journalists into modifying their behavior, either through physical beatings perpetrated by masked "hooligans" or through what Deltsova called "psychological blackmail."

Both independent journalists called for the government of Kazakhstan to live up to its obligations under the OSCE to allow a free and independent media in the country, or to withdraw from the organization. As Deltsova said, "if you declare your country to be a democracy, then live up to that responsibility."