Dozens of journalists, including many from RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, were detained on May 21 while covering nationwide protests against a proposed land privatization law. Some journalists said their video recordings and photos were erased while they were in custody.
Kazakh Information and Communications Minister Dauren Abaev said on May 21 that he would "work to find out why [the journalists] were detained."
The websites of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service are blocked, but access to the service’s Facebook and YouTube sites was restored later on May 21 after offering only intermittent service since May 20.
The government crackdown comes as opposition activists called for rallies to be held across the country to protest proposed changes to laws that would allow farmland to be sold and would allow foreign investors to lease parcels of land for agricultural use for up to 25 years.
RFE/RL Kazakh Service Correspondent Saniya Toiken was detained by police April 29 while on her way to cover protests in the southwestern city of Zhanaozen. She was told she was being held as a witness to a traffic accident, but wasn’t given further information. She was released from custody May 1 when the demonstrations had finished and wasn’t questioned further about the alleged traffic accident. A recently announced land privatization plan has sparked protests in several cities since late April.