The International Press Institute (IPI) has called on authorities in Kazakhstan to investigate an attack on a journalist in the country’s capital city of Astana, which left the victim hospitalised with severe injuries.
Ularkbek Baitailaq, who works for the Kazakh National Archive and has written articles for the opposition ‘Dat’ weekly, ‘Chetvyortaya vlast’ newspaper and ‘Altyn Tamyr’ magazine, was attacked outside his home on Wednesday, according to a report from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFL/RL) Kazakh Service.
Adil Sol, a media rights organisation based in Kazakhstan, reported that the attackers left Baitalaq for dead following the attack.
RFE/RL explained that the police authorities could not be reached for comment.
IPI deputy director, Anthony Mills stated: “We urge Kazakh authorities to conduct a swift, transparent and complete investigation into the attack on Mr Baitailaq, and to hold the perpetrators accountable. Impunity for attacks on journalists cannot be allowed to flourish.”
Not an isolated incident
Earlier this week, ‘Voice of the Republic’ correspondent, Andrew Tsukanova was attacked while walking home. Although he was robbed, and told Adil Sol that he was unsure whether his journalistic work was behind the attack, he had all his travel documents stolen from him as he was preparing to visit Taraz to cover the trial of human rights defender Vadim Kuramshin.
In April, journalist Lukpan Akhmedyaroy was stabbed in the chest and shot with a pneumatic pistol during an attack. After recovering from the attack, the ‘Uralskaya Nedelya’ reporter was recently named the winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism by the Global Media Forum Training Group and the US branch of Reporters Without Borders. The award is presented to “reporters and editors who have demonstrated a commitment to fairness in the story well told, and a matching commitment to defending the right to publish and air that story in countries who repress independent media.”
Akhmedyaroy was convicted of insulting a local official and fined around 27,000 Euros three days before the attack. The journalist has said that both the conviction and the attack were politically motivated.
"Deterioration in conditions for independent and opposition journalists"
Following the reports of Baitailaq’s attack, RSF said: “Despite the theft of his personal possessions, Ularbek Baitailaq’s profile and the method used by his attackers indicate the reasons behind the attack were work-related and political. We urge the police and Astana public prosecutor to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation, focusing on the journalist’s work.”
“Once again, the deterioration in conditions for independent and opposition journalists in Kazakhstan has reached a critical point. They have come to expect censorship, arrest and intimidation. However, the frequency and seriousness of attacks has been growing month by month,” they added.
Kazakhstan was ranked 154th of 179 countries in RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index, and is also on the media watchdog’s list of ‘Internet Enemies.’