U.S. State department deputy spokesman Philip T.
Reeker's statement on harassment of political opposition and independent media in Kazakhstan
The United States is deeply
concerned that recent incidents in Kazakhstan suggest an effort to
intimidate political opposition leaders and the independent media,
and raise serious questions about the safety of the independent
media in Kazakhstan.
On May 21, several unidentified men
apparently robbed the editorial office of the independent
Kazakhstani newspaper, "Soldat." On May 22, the Almaty office of the
independent newspaper "Delovoye Obozreniye Respublika" was
firebombed and destroyed.
In the past several months,
Kazakhstani authorities have detained two prominent opposition
leaders on long-standing corruption charges. Broadcast rights have
been suspended since March for Kazakhstan's independent television
station "TAN," and its primary feeder cable has been vandalized
three times since it went off the air.
We note that Presidents Nazarbayev
and Bush, in their December 21, 2001, joint statement, confirmed
their "desire to strengthen democratic institutions and process,
such as independent media."
Our ambassador in Kazakhstan, Larry
Napper, has made our concerns clear to Kazakhstani authorities and
urged them to conduct an independent and transparent investigation
into the firebombing incident as well as the other attacks on
independent media. He is also fully engaged with senior Kazakhstani
officials on the full range of human rights issues.
We urge Kazakhstan's political leadership to take
appropriate action to protect and advance democratic development, a
free press, and the rule of law.
May 23, 2002