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RFE/RL Kazakh Correspondent Detained Again In Restive Zhanaozen

Sania Toiken receives the 2017 Courage in Journalism Award at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Sania Toiken receives the 2017 Courage in Journalism Award at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: On March 14, the Committee to Protect Journalists appealed to Kazakh authorities to "stop harassing Saniya Toiken" and called on the authorities "not to contest Toiken's appeal and to let her work without obstruction."

An RFE/RL correspondent in Kazakhstan has been fined after being detained for the third time in weeks in the restive city of Zhanaozen, where she has been covering ongoing rallies.

A court in the southwestern city found Sania Toiken guilty of refusal to follow police orders and fined her 50,500 tenges ($135) after a lengthy hearing on March 12.

Toiken rejected the charge, saying the case was politically motivated and was aimed to create obstacles to her reporting.

Her lawyer, Tanatar Isekeshev, said the court's ruling will be appealed.

Toiken was detained near a cafe late on March 11 and spent the night in a police station.

She has been covering ongoing protests by residents in the oil-industry town who are demanding jobs. The previous two detainments were brief, with police questioning her over her coverage of the protests.

Civil right activist Ghalym Agheleuov tweeted on March 12 that a number of protesters were rallying in front of the Zhanaozen police headquarters, demanding the immediate release of Toiken and several protesters who were detained in the morning.

On March 11, the protesters issued a video statement urging President Nursultan Nazarbaev to intervene on their behalf.

Kazakh authorities have been cautious when dealing with protests in Zhanaozen for years, after police fatally shot at least 16 people while dispersing protesting oil workers in December 2011.

Toiken is a recipient of the 2017 Courage in Journalism Award of the International Women's Media Foundation.