Kazakh authorities harass opposition journalist

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Kazakh authorities to stop harassing Inga Imanbay, an opposition journalist who has been assaulted while trying to film her husband’s arrest, forced to resign as a newspaper editor, and named during a colleague’s illegal interrogation. Those who attacked her must be brought to justice, RSF said.

The police have done nothing in response to the complaint Imanbay filed on 1 March about the attack, although the deadline for them to take action has expired. Imanbay, who is several months pregnant, was attacked during the arrest of her husband, Zhanbolat Mamay, a former journalist who is one of a new opposition party’s founders.

When Imanbay tried to use her phone to film the men – plainclothes policemen, according to Imanbay – who came to take her husband to a police station to prevent him attending a demonstration, the phone was snatched out of her hands, although she had shown her press card, and her head was slammed against a metal fence.

As a result, she had to seek emergency medical attention at a hospital for a slight concussion.

Imanbay had been appointed editor of the independent daily Zhas Alash in early January but was sidelined from this position and, as a result, forced to resign on 20 February, shortly before demonstrations in support of Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK), the new party of which her husband had assumed the leadership.

Imanbay said she was sidelined under pressure from the authorities because of her articles about former President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his family, and because of her husband’s new role.

“Inga Imanbay is being subjected to full-blown harassment,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We call on the Kazakh authorities to respect their international obligations by conducting a transparent and effective investigation into the attack against her and by bringing those responsible to trial.

“Free media are essential for a democratic debate and for the credibility of the reformist discourse employed by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who has been president for nearly a year. Not to speak of the requirement on government to guarantee journalists’ safety.”

The police are also planning to open a criminal investigation into a Zhas Alash article about former President Nazarbayev for “inciting social hatred.” This is what they told the article’s author, Askhat Akhan, when they interrogated him on 29 February without his lawyer being present. They wanted to know if Imanbay had commissioned the article.

The police prevented several journalists from covering a day of protest in support of the new opposition party on 22 February. Kazakhstan is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 17.03.2020