Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the repeated arrest of RFE/RL correspondent Svetlana Glushkova during a protest in Kazakhstan’s capital on 22 March and calls on the Kazakh authorities to stop harassing reporters when they are covering demonstrations.
Glushkova, who reports for the Internet TV channel Nastoyashee Vremya, was arrested twice while covering the demonstration in protest against the decision two days earlier to rename the capital Nur-Sultan in honour of newly retired President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The protest was held on the same day as tradition celebrations marking the Norouz, the Persian New Year.
Unidentified individuals tried to prevent other reporters for Radio Azattyk – RFE/RL’s Kazakh version – from filming Glushkova’s arrests. The journalists said they were jostled by these individuals and prevented from freely covering the protest, during which many activists were arrested.
“The recent political changes in Kazakhstan do not bode well for the freedom to inform in this country,” RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk said. “We urge the Kazakh authorities not to obstruct journalists covering demonstrations. The adoption of measures that allow journalists to work freely should be one of the new Kazakh government’s priorities.»
Another Radio Azattyk reporter, Sonya Toiken, spent the night of 11 March in a police station in the western city of Zhanaozen, where she was doing a report on the repeated protests there. When released the next day, she was told that an administrative court had fined her 120 euros for “refusing to follow police orders.”
This was her third arrest in recent months in Zhanaozen. The most recent previous one was on 26 February, when she and her cameraman, Sanat Nurbek, were arrested on arrival.
The political changes in Kazakhstan suggest that an increase in tension and unrest is to be expected. After ruling for 30 years, “Leader of the Nation” Nursultan Nazarbayev has stood down, leaving those close to him in key positions. The press freedom situation is all the more worrying because journalists are being arrested with increasing frequency. The main national opposition media outlets were all banned in 2012 and the Internet is closely controlled. Kazakhstan is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.