"Cases Are Absolutely Absurd" — Human Rights Activists on Cases against Journalists in Kazakhstan


Journalists in Kazakhstan come under more and more pressure, according to the head of the legal service of the Legal Media Center, Gulmira Birzhanova. Orda has looked into what human rights defenders are saying.

The situation of journalists has worsened, as evidenced by the increase in the number of appeals to the organization, Gulmira Birzhanova said.

Legal prosecutions, the draft law on mass media, which, unfortunately, does not help the situation. Denial of access to information. Yesterday, a signal was received that journalists in the West Kazakhstan region were not allowed to record floods. Unfortunately, all this indicates negative trends. And if we are considering court cases: I have been working as a media lawyer for 20 years and I can say that there are more of them now. A lot. And all the cases are absolutely absurd, Gulmira Birzhanova said.

Daniyar Adilbekov

Daniyar Adilbekov was detained on March 27. The reason was his publication in the anonymous telegram channel "Dikaya Orda". It turned out that Vice Minister of Energy Yerlan Akkenzhenov, journalist Gulzhan Yergalieva, and an investor in the capital airport had filed statements against the journalist. The latter may be Yusuf Rashed Aljauder. One of the publications on the channel was about him. 

Incidentally, all the publications that gave rise to the statements along with the subsequent detention of the journalist are still available. Adilbekov was initially accused of falsely denouncing a corruption crime. He could have faced eight years in prison for this.

On April 17, the journalist wrote a letter to colleagues from temporary holding, claiming that he was being persecuted for the truth by those "who are plundering the country and lobbying for the interests of the exclusive buyer of Kazakh oil, Vittol." 

After the journalist's letter was published in the media, the case was reclassified under a different criminal article — "Dissemination of Deliberately False Information". The maximum term specified is three years in prison.

Meanwhile, lawyer Adilzhan Mautkanov stated that the National Security Committee (KNB) was involved in the case.

There is not one operative there, there are several of them. We were able to count four. We don't know how many there really are. We penciled some of them down, and in the future, Daniyar himself will announce these surnames, if necessary. What is the interest of the KNB? We still don't understand, the lawyer said.

Adilbekov also said that KNB employees were trying to obtain information from him about other journalists and asked questions unrelated to the case materials. 

Mautkanov also claimed his client faced intimidation:

They started asking about colleagues, then there were small threats against his family. That's why he decided to write the letter that you published. They told him, “You shouldn't be doing this.” And he replied: “Then I'll tell everyone how it is.” He will tell you the details, if not verbally, then he will send you a letter with detailed names, facts, and so on,  he added.

The lawyer also spoke about violations during Adilbekov's detention. He said that Daniyar and his wife being unable to contact lawyers, as guaranteed by the Constitution, is a crucial moment.

When you are detained, you have the right to contact your lawyer. Daniyar's phone was simply taken away, they did not give anyone the opportunity to call. They were detained on the street. A large group arrived to detain a simple journalist who has no connections and money — employees of the National Security Committee, the police, and a special unit. Everyone knows that a person must be given the right to call a lawyer. But neither he nor his wife were granted such rights. They just took away their phones, which are still with the police. The constitutional rights of at least two persons have been violated, Adilzhan Mautkanov said.

The journalist's car was taken to an impound lot.

They immediately searched the car, which, for unknown reasons, was placed in an impound lot. This is not an instrument of crime, there are no traces of a crime on it. The car was purchased in 2019. That is, it will also not work to bring it to the fact that he bought it with money from posts. This is the family's only car, but they still don't want to return it. A petition has been filed — there is no response. It's like they forgot about the car,The lawyer said.

The lawyer insists that Adilbekov's actions do not qualify as a criminal article, and claims against him should be considered in a civil procedure

Askhat Niyazov

The situation around Askhat Niyazov is also peculiar. It was decided to go to court with the journalist for reposting a ProTenge post in support of colleagues from Radio Azattyq. The post stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, guided by the law on mass media currently being considered in parliament, did not accredit Radio Azattyq employees to work in Kazakhstan. Now an administrative case has been opened against him. However, this case, oddly enough, has no applicant party

He is being prosecuted for an administrative offense — for defamation. The most interesting thing is that there is no applicant party in our case. But before that, a criminal case was opened, which the police stopped due to lack of evidence of a crime. There must be an applicant party for defamation, an individual, said lawyer Assel Toqayeva.

She has also defended the interests of Radio Azattyq employees in their claim against the Kazakh Foreign Ministry. A mediation agreement has recently been reached between the media and the ministry.

On April 22, preliminary hearings were held in the case against Niyazov. They were attended by a police officer who drew up a protocol for the offense. According to the lawyer, he made mistakes while doing so. 

A representative of the Information Committee of the Ministry of Culture and Information was also invited as a participant. He explained that the agency monitors all media and social networks. And a repost with allegedly deliberately false information was found on Niyazov's telegram channel. 

Niyazov's lawyer explained that a repost indicating the author of the original publication under the law on mass media does not fall under the article on the dissemination of deliberately false information. And since Niyazov's article is different — "Defamation", then there is no rationale in the accusation, no corpus delicti, no affected persons. The court adjourned without naming the date of the next hearing. 

Marina Nizovkina

Assel Tokayeva also defends Marina Nizovkina accused of defamation by the first deputy of the Shymkent Police Department, Yermakhan Abdarmanov. The court of first instance did not find the violation in her publication, but the appeals board found the journalist guilty.

The protocol was drawn up on one publication, and the appeals board took two. The second publication was not the subject of the protocol at all. This is considered a serious, gross violation of the law. The court has gone beyond the scope of the case under consideration. And in essence, the examination shows that there is negative information, but there is no damaging material. The applicant party is the first deputy of the Shymkent Police Department. And this, as you understand, is a significant basis for making a decision in favor of an official. Obviously, the correct decision was reviewed in favor of the applicant party, Assel Tokayeva said.

Later, the journalist recorded a video message in which she expressed concern for the safety of her family.

Why, for example, would a district police officer demand documents from me for my minor son? I believe that now my activities will be under some kind of pressure and danger. I'm afraid to go home late from work in the evening, drive my car, as I'm afraid of various provocations, and not only on the road, Marina Nizovkina said in her video message.

Asel Tokayeva added that journalists "cannot write only positive things, especially about officials."

Especially for such bodies as the PD, if there are constituents — both about cars and about plates — people really have questions why not write about it. But some people with administrative resources react this way, and, apparently, try in every possible way (to influence the case. — Ed.),
 the lawyer added.

"I Don't Know The Details"

On the sidelines of the Majilis, colleagues asked Minister of Culture and Information, Aida Balayeva, if she would stand up for journalists, and what she thinks about the aforementioned situations.

Regarding Daniyar Adilbekov, the minister stated that "he is not a journalist." To the statement about his journalism education and position as a freelance employee at an editorial office, she replied:

I don't know him as a journalist. He represented an anonymous channel, and the ministry has not received any official request regarding Adilbekov, Balayeva said.

A question arises: Are only those journalists whom the Minister personally knows worthy of protection? Colleagues asked why Kazakhstan was ready to use a detention center "for words".

I do not know the details of this case, I will tell you frankly, and there is no need to exaggerate. Let's look into it, investigative measures are underway now, let's wait for the results, I will already comment there,
the minister said. 

Concerning Askhat Niyazov, the Minister also asked to wait for the end of the trial. She added that she does not consider these facts to be pressure on journalists.

Original Authors: Zhadra Zhulmukhametova, Ilya Astakhov

DISCLAIMER: This is a translated piece. The text has been modified, the content is the same. The text has been updated to reflect the current situation as of 24/04/24. The original article was published on 23/04/24. Please refer to it for accuracy. 

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