Kazakhstan: Yet another attempt to kill an opposition journalist, Ularbek Baytalak
14 Aug 2012
On the night of August 8, a group of four men attacked the opposition journalist, Ularbek Baytalak, in the outskirts of Astana, where he was left for dead.The journalist works for two opposition newspapers, Dat and Tortinshi bilik, and takes a critical stance towards the current government. The attack on Baytalak comes a few months after fellow opposition journalist Lukpan Akhmendyarov survived being shot and stabbed outside his apartment in April 2012.
“ARTICLE 19 calls on the government of Kazakhstan to publically condemn the attack on Baytalak and ensure that a thorough and detailed investigation is launched. The authorities also need respond to the fact that serious attacks against journalists have occurred too often and investigations are carried out in an inadequate manner. So far no attackers have been identified in case of Ularbek Baytalak, and also no one has been identified as ordering the attack in the case of Lukpan Akhmedyarov,” said ARTICLE 19 executive director Dr Agnes Callamard.
“This attack on Baytalak demonstrates once again that impunity is flourishing in Kazakhstan, and it is time for the authorities to undertake adequate measures to stop it,” she added.
Baytalak was found on the morning of August 9 and taken to hospital in Astana, with injuries including broken teeth, bruises, lips that had been torn off, a traumatic brain injury and a severe chest wound. According to the doctors he cannot walk and will have to stay in the hospital for approximately one month. As reported by his colleague, Zangar Karimkhan, a photographer from the newspaper Ult Times, Baytalak was severely beaten about the head using a heavy object, kicked, and heard the sound of gunfire. Baytalak also reported hearing his assailants indicate that they wanted to kill him.
The attackers undressed the journalist and took his clothing, a folder with documents, his mobile phone, press identification and 50,000 KZT (USD 335).
“We do not rule out the possibility that the attack is related to his professional activities; he works for the opposition press. An ordinary robbery in his case is also doubtful, because ordinary robberies are not accompanied with such severe beatings,” said Tamara Kaleyeva, president of the ARTICLE 19’s national partner, press freedom organisation, Adil Soz.
Earlier in April, the journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov, who is known for his criticism of the current government and participation in protest gatherings, was stabbed eight times with a knife in the area of his heart and shot twice by an automatic gun by a group of unknown men. According to Lukpan and his colleagues the attack might have been related to his recent publication, entitled “Brat, svat i blat”.
In the article in question, Akhmendyarov had written: “Marriages are made in heaven, but the benefits from them are very earthly. This may be confirmed by the career growth of Tlekkabyl Imashev, who was the teacher of physical culture in the past and now is the head of West-Kazakhstani [region’s] internal politics department.” Imashev filed a lawsuit against the journalist which was approved for proceedings three days before the attack on Akhmendyarov. On 20 July, the court of Uralsk issued a decision as a result of the lawsuit, which required Lukpan Akhmedyarov to pay five million tenge (USD 33,500) in compensation to Tlekkabyl Imashev.
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