Kazakhstan: Journalist stabbed ahead of meeting on threats to media freedom

Kazakh journalist and human rights activist Ramazan Yesergepov was stabbed on 14 May in a train to the capital Astana, where he was about to meet European diplomats to discuss threats to media freedom.

Reports said that after asking his name, two unidentified men stabbed the journalist in the abdomen three times a few hours after leaving Almaty. Yesergepov was removed from the train at Shu station and taken to a local hospital for an operation while a criminal case has been initiated following the assault.

Yesergepov was supposed to meet with officials of the German and Lithuanian embassies the following day regarding the case of Zhanbolat Mamay, editor and publisher of the independent newspaper Sayasi Kalam/Tribuna, in jail since February and accused of economic crimes.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has backed its affiliate, the Federation of Equal Journalists in Kazakhstan, which was highly concerned over “what the investigators seem to picture as nothing more than a domestic conflict”. In a statement, the affiliate said: “The attack leaves every reason to think that someone had set themselves the goal to disrupt that meeting and intimidate our colleague.”

The journalist and chairman of Journalists in Trouble Public Foundation Ramzazan Yesergepov had previously spent three years in prison accused of “collecting information that contains state secrets” in reprisal for his publishing internal memos of the KNB ,the Kazakhstan’s national security service in 2009. Last year, he was granted a resolution of the UN Committee on Human Rights, which found that his rights had been violated during the investigation and trial. He has been recently trying to have the resolution of the UN Committee enforced by the Kazakhstan authorities. His most-recent suit was filed on 12 May, a day before his planned trip to Astana.

We are convinced that the attack on journalist and human rights activist Ramazan Yesergepov is related to his professional activities,” said Rozlana Taukina, the President of the Federation of Equal Journalists in Kazakhstan. “We believe that this was an assassination attempt to end his life-long  fight against corruption, corrupt officials and the judicial system, which he criticizes for each unfair decision.

We back our affiliate and strongly condemn this attack against a respected journalist and press freedom activist who has been tirelessly trying to raise the issue of violations of the rights of the arrested journalists,” added IFJ President, Philippe Leruth. “We call on the authorities to make sure a thorough investigation of this crime is carried out and the perpetrators are found and held responsible”.

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