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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

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