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Freedom of Speech in Kazakhstan. International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech “Adil Soz” Press Release


Despite of the numerous achievements which have been shown in official letter of the Ministry of Information, the international Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech “Adil Soz” considers that situation with freedom of speech is hard to say as successful in Kazakhstan.

There were 9 attacks on mass-media employees and their relatives in 2003. Four journalists have been already beaten since the beginning of 2004. Failure provocation against Georgiy Melnikov, journalist of “Vremya” newspaper, and unfortunately, successful attack on “Diapazon” newspaper is brightly characterized the attitude of government officials to critical notices. Vladimir Mikhailov, the owner of “Diapazon” newspaper was convicted of one trumped-up charge and being granted amnesty, and was convicted of another trumped-up charge and arrested. Recently civil law court has been leading with ruinous financial claims from the direction of local akimat leaders.

In spite of the Constitution that declares everybody‘s equality in terms of the law, Civil Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan contains 6 articles, which provide responsibility for slander and insult. In 2003 the “Adil Soz” monitoring registered 21 incidents of journalists’ criminal prosecution and 8 incidents had already been recorded in 2004.

The most “used” is article 143 of the Civil Code of RK concerning the protection of honor and dignity, business reputation of individuals and legal entities. In 2003 there were 39 prejudicial claims and 96 civil suits regarding protection of honor and dignity, and other personal non-property rights. Burden of proof in these disputes is completely laid on defendant, in other words, on journalists and mass media. Charges claimed as moral damage compensation made 100,132,600 thousands tenge. Authors of the claims to mass media included 52 government officials, 42 legal entities and 41citizens.

Government officials, both of government and public sector, have no responsibility in terms of journalists and mass media rights observance. Baseless limitations in providing of information of public importance have mass character. In 2001, the monitoring of breaches of freedom of speech carried out by “Adil Soz” registered 130 cases of baseless limitation and refusals in providing information. In 2002 there were more than 263 notes and in 2003 – 415.

Within 3 months only of 2004, the monitoring registered 247 incidents of direct and indirect infringements of mass-media and journalists rights, including 4 cases when journalists had been beaten and 11 attempts to interfere in their creative work dictating themes and content of publications. However, monitoring did not register any incident of calling guilty to account. There are 27 claims and suits concerning protection of honor, dignity and business reputation and compensation of moral damage addressed to mass media. The total amount of claims is about 40 million tenge (about USD 300,000).

Rejection of new law “Concerning Mass Media” by Constitutional Council became an indubitably victory of Kazakhstani journalists’ society. President supported this decision and relieved journalist from new problems, but did not solve the existing ones. There is no need to wait when the newly-elected Kazakhstani Parliament begins solving these problems. It is necessary to amend the current law “Concerning Mass Media”, the Civil, Criminal and Administrative Codes as soon as possible, approaching the legal environment of journalists’ activity to international democratic standards.

 

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