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Authorities’ crackdown on two news sites that reported on prominent former politician raises concerns about media’s ability to investigate country’s bigwigs.21 May 2018
A group of 26 media watchdog organizations, including PEN International, Reporters Without Borders, and the International Press Institute (IPI), sent an open letter on 18 May to several high-ranking Kazakh officials expressing concern about the curtailment of media freedom.
"We are concerned that the growing pattern of disproportionate, and in some cases, illegal actions taken by the prosecutor's office and the judiciary against Ratel.kz and a number of other media suggests misuse of Kazakhstan's legal system to silence normal criticism crucial to the functioning of a well-ordered democracy," the letter, which was addressed to the Kazakh general prosecutor, the chairman of the parliament, and others, read.
The letter refers to a criminal investigation of two prominent independent media outlets opened at the end of March for allegedly “disseminating knowingly false information,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote at the time.
Kakimzhanov has had a history of doing battle with the two publications, as Eurasianet notes. He and his son sued them in January 2017, and, after closed hearings, the court verdict ordered them to pay around $160,000 in damages, as well as to remove the offensive articles and to issue a retraction.
In a Facebook post explaining his decision to sue the media websites again, cited by HRW, Kakimzhanov wrote: “Despite court rulings, select media outlets and their authors do not comply with the court rulings and continue to publish similar articles.”
It remains unclear from media reports whether Kakimzhanov is again disputing allegations of financial misdoing that were the subject of the 2017 case.