WASHINGTON -- Recent detentions and fines targeting two Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalists in Kazakhstan suggest that the country’s new political uncertainty may be generating increased pressures for independent media.
On April 2, a regional court in western Kazakhstan upheld a lower court decision to fine correspondent Saniya Toiken the equivalent of $135 for refusing to follow police orders while covering a protest over jobs last month in the western city of Zhanaozen. Toiken is appealing the ruling.
The same day, Svetlana Glushkova, a correspondent for Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with Voice of America, was fined the equivalent of $66 by a court in the Kazakh capital, now called Nur-Sultan, for allegedly assaulting a teenage girl while reporting on demonstrations there last month. Glushkova says the girl was trying to prevent her from documenting the arrests of several protesters. Video from the rally shows police telling RFE/RL correspondents to report about a nearby concert and “positive things,” and failing to intervene.
The protest, during which Glushkova was detained by police for several hours, took place on March 22, only days after President Nursultan Nazarbayev surprised audiences at home and abroad with the announcement of his resignation. RFE/RL deplored the detentions as “a blatant attempt to control media coverage of political events and intimidate independent journalists.”
RFE/RL’s live coverage of those protests and other unrest in the country was exceptional in a country dominated by state-controlled media, driving a record 17.9 million views in February and 17 million views in March on the Kazakh Service's YouTube feed.
RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, known locally as Radio Azattyq, provides a platform in both Kazakh and Russian for audience engagement and the free exchange of news and ideas about the most important issues facing the people of Kazakhstan. In 2018, the service’s azattyq.org website logged nearly 16 million visits and over 25 million page views. More than 387,000 people subscribe to its YouTube feed, and 178,000 follow its Instagram page.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to 34 million people in 26 languages and 22 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 2.6 billion times on Facebook and YouTube in FY2018. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.