Almaty Court Upholds Kazakh magazine closure
Feb.27, Kazakhstan: The Almaty Court in Kazakhstan yesterday upheld the closure of the outspoken ADAM bol (Be a Human) magazine over an article about the conflict in Ukraine.
The journalist Gulzhan Erghalieva said after the Almaty City Court’s decision was pronounced on February 26 that she has not yet decided whether she will appeal.
But the International Partnership for Human Rights condemned the saying the decision as another serious blow to freedom of expression and media pluralism in Kazakhstan.
The ruling against ADAM bol was issued in response to a request from the Almaty city authorities to close down the weekly over an August 2014 article alleged to contain elements of “war propaganda.” This article featured an interview with a Kiev-based Kazakhstani opposition figure who called for supporting the Ukrainian army in its struggle against the separatist forces.
A press statement issued by Partnership for Human Rights said that in the court decision, the City Court upheld the ruling of an Almaty district court from 24 December 2014, which primarily drew on an expert analysis concluding that the article published by the weekly used “manipulative techniques” to communicate “approval of the war in Ukraine,” as well as “hidden encouragement” to Kazakhstanis to participate in this war.
Alternative expert analyses presented by the defence were ignored by the court. Under vaguely worded provisions of Kazakhstan’s Media Law, media outlets may be closed down by court, among others, for propaganda of war or extremism, the statement said.
The statement further said that the December decision was handed down late at night when the representatives of the weekly had left the court, and yesterday the court failed to pay due attention to information putting into question the procedure in which the lawsuit against the weekly had been filed.
Already in November 2014, the district court had – as a preventive measure – ordered that the publication of ADAM bol be suspended and its distribution halted.
ADAM bol, which is well-known for its frank coverage of corruption, human rights and other politically sensitive issues, is only the latest victim in a series of forced closures of independent media outlets in Kazakhstan in the last two years. Journalists and media who challenge the official line and expose those in power also continue to face threats, defamation cases, and other pressure, and websites that publish inconvenient information are regularly blocked. There are fears that the Kazakhstani authorities may further step up efforts to silence critical voices and stifle open debate ahead of the early presidential elections that have been announced for 26 April 2015.
ADAM bol and its chief editor Guljan Yergaliyeva have repeatedly faced harassment in the past.
A number of online articles published about the court process against ADAM bol have been blocked for readers in Kazakhstan.
The Oslo Times