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Journalists Say Authorities Are Thwarting Zhanaozen Coverage

Kazakhstan -- A protester runs from a police vehicle on fire in the Kazakh town of Zhanaozen in this still image taken from video acquired by Reuters TV, 16Dec2011
Journalists from the independent online television company Stan-TV say police in the restive city of Zhanaozen are hindering the media's work, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Stan-TV chief editor Asel Limzhanova, along with journalists Zhuldyz Toleu and Qasym Amanzhol said in Almaty today that local police and security forces have been trying to block their coverage of the mass strike of oil workers in the western city of Zhanaozen since May.

They said the tension between police and journalists worsened after the deadly clashes between striking oil workers and police took place in the city on December 16.

In a statement issued last month, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) cited attacks by Kazakh authorities on independent journalists and efforts to suppress coverage of the unrest.

Stan-TV journalists and their relatives have been under pressure and subject to violence since last summer as they started covering the standoff between oil workers and the OzenMunaiGaz Oil Company.

After the deadly clashes last month in Zhanaozen and the nearby town of Shetpe that left at least 17 protesters dead, the Stan-TV journalists and their relatives were summoned more often to police for questioning.

"As we are currently under police scrutiny we would like to state publicly that we do not use drugs, we are not associated with any extremist group, and do not possess any weapons," Limzhanova said today.

The three also stated that they have officially called on President Nursultan Nazarbaev to protect them from security officials' and law enforcement officers' "lawlessness."

The Almaty-based Stan-TV makes video reports from the five Central Asian countries and posts them on its website. It is associated with Kazakh businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is wanted in Kazakhstan on criminal charges but lives in self-imposed exile in England.

Compiled by RFE/RL's O wire.