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Kazakhstan: Heavy fine for journalist Mr Lukpan Ahmedyarov and a newspaper for alleged defamation of a public official
On 27 July 2012, Uralsk Court No 2 ordered Mr Lukpan Ahmedyarov and the founders of Uralsk’s Week newspaper to pay KZT 5 million (approximately EUR 27,125) to Mr Tlekkabyl Imashev for allegedly defaming him and damaging his reputation.
Mr Tlekkabyl Imashev is Head of the Department of Internal Policy of the Western Kazakhstan Region.
Lukpan Ahmedyarov is a journalist and co-founder of Uralsk’s Week newspaper. He is an active leader of protests demanding an impartial and effective investigation into the December 2011 events in Zhanaozen. He is also the author of anti-corruption publications.
The judge ruled in favour of the public official in spite of a lack of evidence to support his claims. The linguistic appraisal of the article, conducted by experts from both the Ministry of Justice and the Linguistic Centre of the Foundation for Protection of Journalists Adil Soz, did not find anything which could be seen to damage the honour and dignity of Tlekkabyl Imashev. Furthermore, in the court, the Ministry of Justice experts did mention that the plaintiff's professional reputation may have been damaged, but the plaintiff was unable to provide any evidence to substantiate this assertion. In spite of his inability to demonstrate how his reputation was damaged, during a court hearing on 17 July, Tlekkabyl Imashev filed a claim to increase the compensation demanded from KZT 5 million to KZT 10 million.
The original complaint lodged by Tlekkabyl Imashev in April 2012 alleged that Lukpan Ahmedyarov's article “Brat Svat, Blat” was defamatory. The article highlighted kinship relationships in the local administration and Tlekkabyl Imashev's name was mentioned in this context. Lukpan Ahmedyarov was unable to attend the first court hearing, which took place on 23 April 2012, a few days after the human rights defender was stabbed and shot by unknown people near his home.
According to Ms Tamara Yeslyamova, Editor-in-Chief of the Uralsk's Week, continuous pressure has been put on the newspaper in recent years. Since February 2012, a printing house has been ordered to stop printing the newspaper, but refuses to do so because of the profit gained from the business relationship. However, in the last two weeks, many private newspaper retailers have refused to sell the newspaper, saying that Government authorities had come and ordered them not to sell it. Thus, on 26 July, the Uralsk's Week journalists took to the streets wearing bright T-shirts to sell the newspaper and to explain the situation to the public.
Front Line Defenders continues to follow the criminal case regarding the attack on Lukpan Ahmedyarov, who was gravely injured after being shot twice and stabbed eight times on 19 April 2012 (http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/18128). Firstly, four young men from a distant village were arrested and then released when their innocence became apparent to the general public. Then, on 25 July, Lukpan Ahmedyarov was summoned to the Ministry of Interior Affairs and told that his case was being taken to a higher level, and a prosecutor from Astana who will now lead the investigation assured him that he would find the culprits.
Front Line Defenders condemns the court ruling against Lukpan Ahmedyarov and Uralsk's Week newspaper and the pressure being put on them by the authorities, and believes these measures are solely motivated by their legitimate efforts to uncover corruption in the local administration.