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The Kazakh Service Covers the Biggest Demonstrations of Independent Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan -- Riot police officers detain demonstrators during a protest against President's government and the land reform it has proposed, in Almaty, May 21, 2016

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, known locally as Radio Azattyq, was the only large media in Kazakhstan providing in-depth coverage of April-May 2016 "land protests." Kazakhstanis gathered for protests in different cities throughout the country opposing the government's land reform which would allow foreigners to rent land for 25 years. The topic was widely ignored by local media because it is mostly controlled by the state. For Azattyq, the unique coverage resulted in a record number of views on YouTube (5.5 million) and visits to its website in one month (1.5 million).

Kazakh authorities aggressively reacted to attempts to hold demonstrations against land reforms on May 21, 2016, by detaining more than 1000 people, including journalists in several cities. Among detained journalists by police were nine of Azattyq reporters from Astana, Almaty, Atyrau, Shymkent, and Oral. It was the first time when attacks against Azattyq reporters took place in Kazakhstan. Azattyq's website was completely blocked in Kazakhstan those days of protests. Despite the arrests of its journalists and blockage of the website, Azattyq covered the event in-depth, constantly updating news, videos, and live programs, registering a record number of visits to its website and YouTube channel. Two of the Service's reporters later received prizes from the Journalists Union of the country for covering events during those days.