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Kazakhstan: Newspaper Closing a Blow to Free Speech

Kazakhstan: One Of Few

A journalist holds a copy of the Assandi Times, now prohibited in Kazakhstan.

© Assandi Times Editorial Office/Redaktsiya Assandi Times

(Berlin) – A court on April 21, 2014, ordered the closure of one of Kazakhstan’s few remaining independent newspapers, Human Rights Watch said today. The order compounds other measures in recent weeks to tighten controls over freedom of expression and the media. Kazakh authorities should immediately seek to set aside the court order prohibiting the Assandi Times from publishing.

The Almaty court ruled that the Assandi Times, a weekly newspaper with a national circulation of about 7, 500, should cease publication as it was a part of Respublika, a newspaper that was banned in December 2012. In recent months, several other newspapers have been suspended or closed down in unrelated cases, including Pravdivaya Gazeta at the end of February.

“This absurd case displays the lengths to which Kazakh authorities are willing to go to bully critical media into silence, ” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The European Union and the United States should make it clear that they will not sit quietly as the Kazakh authorities muzzle what’s left of Kazakhstan’s independent and opposition media.”

Respublika and its affiliate newspapers and websites were shut down in December 2012 after various courts ruled that they constituted a single media entity and that they “incite(d) social discord” and “propagandize(d) the violent overthrow of government.” Respublika had covered the prolonged oil workers’ strike in 2011 and the related violent clashes that broke out in Zhanaozen, in Western Kazakhstan, in December 2011.

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