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Kazakhstan: Court upholds newspaper’s closure over Ukraine coverage






Court upholds newspaper’s closure over Ukraine coverage

Statement issued by
International Partnership for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee
and Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, 27
February 2015


The Almaty City Court yesterday upheld
the closure of the outspoken
ADAM bol
magazine over an article about the conflict in Ukraine. We condemn this
decision as another serious blow to freedom of expression and media pluralism
in Kazakhstan.


The ruling
ADAM bol was issued in
response to a request from
the Almaty
city authorities to close down the weekly over an August 2014 article alleged
to contain elements of “war propaganda.” This article featured an interview
with a Kiev-based Kazakhstani opposition figure who called for supporting the
Ukrainian army in its struggle against the separatist forces.


In its decision, the City Court upheld the ruling of an Almaty district
court from 24 December 2014, which primarily drew on an
concluding that the article published by the weekly used
“manipulative techniques” to communicate “approval of the war in Ukraine,” as
well as “hidden encouragement” to Kazakhstanis to participate in this war.
Alternative expert analyses presented by the defence were ignored by the court.
Under vaguely worded provisions of Kazakhstan’s Media Law, media outlets may be
closed down by court, among others, for propaganda of war or extremism.


The December decision was handed down late at night when the
representatives of the weekly had left the court, and yesterday the court
failed to pay due attention to information putting into question the procedure
in which the lawsuit against the weekly had been filed.


Already in November 2014, the district court had – as a preventive
measure – ordered that the publication of
be suspended and its distribution halted.


ADAM bol, which is well-known for its frank
coverage of corruption, human rights and other politically sensitive issues, is
only the latest victim in a series of forced closures of independent media outlets
in Kazakhstan in the last two years. Journalists and media who challenge the
official line and expose
 those in power
also continue to face threats, defamation cases, and other pressure, and
websites that publish inconvenient information are regularly blocked.
There are fears that the Kazakhstani authorities may
further step up efforts to silence critical voices and stifle open debate ahead
of the early presidential elections that have been announced for 26 April 2015.


The OSCE Representative of Media Freedom has previously criticized the
measures against
ADAM bol as “
drastic and disproportionate” and said that they “contribute to an
atmosphere of fear for members of the media.” Over 40
civil society representatives and journalists, as well as a number of
parliamentary deputies have
spoken out in in support of the weekly.


ADAM bol and its chief editor Guljan Yergaliyeva
have repeatedly faced harassment in the


In the
evening before the court hearing on 24 December 2014,
Yergaliyeva was attacked and
hit in the head by an unknown perpetrator in the apartment building where she
lives. She believes this attack was aimed at intimidating her. During the
Kazakhstan visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly
and association in January 2015, Yergaliyeva and several other individuals were
detained when on their way to a peaceful protest in support of
ADAM bol.


In a
separate court case from November 2014, the owners of
ADAM bol were ordered to pay a sizeable amount of compensation (around 25 000
EUR) over an article about the conflict in Syria found to have defamed the
representative of a mosque.


number of online articles published about the court process against
ADAM bol have been blocked for readers
in Kazakhstan.


After yesterday’s
court hearing, chief editor
Guljan Yergaliyeva stated that ADAM bol has not yet decided whether to appeal this decision. She also announced
plans to launch a new, alternative magazine.


We call on the government of
Kazakhstan to comply with its international obligations on freedom of
expression and the media and put an end to pressure on independent media and
journalists, thereby also heeding the many recommendations on this issue it
received during the recent UN Universal Period Review of the country. Media
outlets should not be shut up for investigative and alternative reporting on issues
of public interest.

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