(PRAGUE, Czech Republic) In the fourth attack on an RFE/RL journalist in Central Asia this year, the editor of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service website was attacked by a group of men outside his home last night in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Ermek Boltay, a young journalist whose most recent reporting focused on social unrest in Almaty, was hit with a glass bottle and kicked until he lost consciousness by unidentified assailants. The perpetrators left without taking his wallet or any personal possessions. The attack is the second on an independent journalist in Kazakhstan in the past month.
"As a talented, up-and-coming independent journalist, Ermek represents the future in Kazakhstan," said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. "An attack on Ermek for doing his job would be not only an assault on RFE/RL, it would be an attack on press freedom and progress in Kazakhstan."
Gedmin called on the Kazakh government to investigate the incident immediately and noted that Kazakhstan will assume the leadership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Europe's premier human rights watchdog, in 2010.
According to Freedom House, Kazakhstan is ranked as "not free" and falls far below other nations in the areas of political rights and civil liberties. Human Rights Watch said recently that, "despite hopes for meaningful reform, spurred the country's selection as the 2010 chair of the OSCE, human rights in Kazakhstan improved little in 2008."
In April 2008, the government-controlled Internet monopoly, Kaztelecom, blocked access to RFE/RL's English- and Kazakh-language websites for seven weeks. The sites were restored after expressions of concern by the international community, but the websites of several political opposition movements remain blocked.About RFE/RL's Kazakh Service
RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Radio Azattyq, was established in 1953 as part of the Radio Liberty family, and has redoubled its efforts since independence to provide dependable information through intensive on-the-ground reporting and unique perspective. Restrictions on the Kazakh media market and limited airtime have imposed a heavy burden that Radio Azattyq has sought to counter with dynamic programming and stepped-up cooperation -- online and on-air -- with local and regional media.