OSCE media freedom representative urges authorities in Kazakhstan to stop persecuting independent voices
LOS ANGELES, 26 January 2016 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today said that the recent prison sentences handed down to two bloggers in Kazakhstan constitute yet another attempt to silence differing voices in the country.
On 22 January, bloggers Serikjan Mambetalin and Ermek Narymbaev were sentenced to two and three years in prison respectively for posts on social media platforms, which quote and comment on an excerpt from an unpublished book by Murat Telibekov, the head of the Association of Muslims of Kazakhstan. Both bloggers, who were arrested in October last year, were tried and also convicted under Article 174 of the Criminal Code (“Incitement of social, inter-ethnic, racist or religious hatred”).
“This is another step aimed at silencing critical voices,” Mijatović said. “Considering previous and ongoing persecution targeting journalists and bloggers, the situation for freedom of expression and media freedom in Kazakhstan is deeply worrying.”
Bloggers Igor Sychev and Ermek Taichibekov were recently handed down prison sentences for postings on social media platforms, while blogger Bolatbek Blialov was put under limited house arrest. Furthermore, journalists Guzal Baidalinova and Yulia Kozlova are subject to a criminal investigation for pursuing their professional activities.
“No matter how disturbing or controversial, free speech has to have a protected status in a democratic society and thus cannot be stifled,” Mijatović said.
The Representative expressed her concern about a criminal investigation involving Kazakh journalists in a press release on 26 December 2015 (see: www.osce.org/fom/212731).
Mijatović is in Los Angeles participating in an international seminar on freedom of expression.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter:@OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.