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Kazakhstan Detains Two RFE/RL Journalists

Saniya Toiken, Washington, D.C., 2017.
Saniya Toiken, Washington, D.C., 2017.

Police on February 27 in Kazakhstan's southwestern city of Zhanaozen detained two Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) correspondents who were covering a protest by local residents.

RFE/RL Kazakh Service reporters Saniya Toiken and cameraman Sanat Nurbek were detained while on assignment to cover youth protests in the city over jobs and economic issues that began on February 9. Police brought them to the regional center Aktau, where they were held for six hours and questioned, separately.

Toiken told RFE/RL that police used force when they bundled her and cameraman Sanat Nurbek into a police car.

She said that police told her and Nurbek that they had been detained on the basis of a complaint by a "concerned citizen." They were questioned about their plans to report on the demonstration.

The journalists were later released, but police had temporarily seized their equipment and Toiken's phone was returned to her broken.

Toiken has registered an official complaint about her phone.

Local police declined to comment to RFE/RL on the detention of the two correspondents.

Also on February 27, police detained several protesters who demonstrated outside the headquarters of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's ruling party in Almaty and Astana, Kazakhstan's two main cities, the latest in a series of antigovernment rallies in the Central Asian country.

Known locally as Radio Azattyq, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports in both Kazakh and Russian languages and provides one of the country's few independent platforms for audience engagement and the free exchange of ideas.