Kazakhstan: Two journalists sentenced to jail on tax fraud charges

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Federation of Equal Journalists in Kazakhstan (FEJK), in condemning the imprisonment of two journalists, Seytkazy Matayev and his son Aset Matayev who were accused of tax fraud and embezzlement of state funds in Kazakhstan.  Their charges have been dismissed a reprisal measure by the authorities because of the journalists’ independent reporting.

On 3 October, Matayev, chair of the National Press Club of Kazakhstan, and his son Aset Matayev, director of the independent news agency KazTag, were sentenced to six years and five years in prison respectively.

Both journalists were detained in late February over tax fraud and embezzlement of state funds charges. After their arrest, they were forced to leave their city and transferred to Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, where they were living under house arrest in a rental apartment.

Human rights defenders have described the arrest as politically motivated and they suggest that Seytkazy and Aset were targeted to send journalists a message when it was only one month for the parliamentary elections in March 2016, media reported.

During their trial hearing in September, media quoted Seytkazy Matayev as saying that the reasons behind the persecution were retaliatory to “limit our professional activity and oppose the defense of the freedom of expression of journalists in Kazakhstan”.

“We are very concerned about the deterioration of Seytkazy Matayed’s health  who suffers from hypertension and heart palpitations,” said IFJ President, Philippe Leruth. “We join the Matayev Committee, his colleagues and friends who have strongly called on the Kazan authorities to drop all the charges and let him receive the medical treatment in the hospital”.

The Kazan authorities have also asked to seize the journalists’ property which includes the National Press Club, and banned Aset Matayev from conducting any business activity for three years.

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