WASHINGTON – RFE/RL President Jamie Fly criticized the targeting of Kazakh journalists covering fuel price protests that have spiraled beyond the government’s control.
Said Fly, “Reports of gunfire and other violence directed at those reporting on these protests, are deeply concerning—as are attempts to limit the flow of information within and out of the country, by targeting the internet and social media and blocking media websites, including that of our Kazakh Service. At such an unstable time, journalists must be allowed to report the facts as they unfold.”
Today, while covering protests in the central square of Almaty, individuals in a security forces vehicle opened fire indiscriminately at protesters and journalists who were wearing their legally-mandated “Press” vests—including those reporting for RFE/RL. Yesterday, two RFE/RL journalists were detained by police while reporting on the protests in Almaty and Nur-Sultan—Darkhan Umirbekov, an editor in Nur-Sultan who was detained and held for 4.5 hours for questioning, and acting Almaty bureau chief Kasym Amanzhol, who was held for 2 hours of questioning after being picked up as he filmed protests earlier in the day.
RFE/RL journalists have been providing on-the-ground coverage of the recent wave of nationwide protests sparked by a sharp, unexpected doubling of retail prices for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) used in vehicles, which amplified worries among Kazakhs of knock-on effects to the prices of other daily commodities such as food. The protests, which started in Kazakhstan’s long-restive western Mangystau region, quickly expanded to urban centers throughout the country, including the capital, Nur-Sultan and commercial hub of Almaty, where protesters stormed city hall, set fire to a presidential residence, and seized control of the airport. A nationwide state of emergency has been declared.
Access to the website of RE/RL's Kazakh Service was blocked within Kazakhstan today, along with those of several other independent media outlets including Orda.kz and KazTAG. Mobile Internet communications were down for much of the day; access remains blocked to popular social media platforms including WhatsApp, Telegram, and Skype.
RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, known locally as Radio Azattyq, reports accurate news and informed analysis in both the Kazakh and Russian languages that state-controlled media is often unable or unwilling to provide, while serving as a platform for the free exchange of ideas. In FY 2021, the service’s azattyq.org website logged 50 million visits and 69.7 million page views. More than 1.23 million people subscribe to its YouTube feed, and 612,000 follow its Instagram page.
Current Time is a 24/7 Russian-language digital and TV network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. In addition to reporting uncensored news, it is the largest provider of independent, Russian-language films to its audiences. Despite rising pressure on Current Time from the Russian government, which has designated the network a media “foreign agent,” Current Time videos were viewed over 1.3 billion times on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 7 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021. 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.