Independent media outlets in Kazakhstan are facing a clampdown, as allegations and counter-allegations continue to fly over the activities of the president's former son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev.
Representatives of four newspapers say they are facing coordinated measures ranging from tax and fire inspections to publishing difficulties. Meanwhile, several websites that regularly carry material on the Aliyev case remain inaccessible in Kazakhstan.
Journalists from the four weeklies Respublika, Svoboda Slova, Taszhargan and Vzglyad, all known for publishing articles critical of the government are unequivocal about the reasons behind what they portray as an attack on media freedom. They point to publications about Aliyev and continuing allegations about who is responsible for the 2006 murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. In a clear attempt to implicate his former father-in-law, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Aliyev in late October told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the order for the killing was given in Austria while the president was holidaying there. [For background click here].
"It's clear that the pressure is linked to material published about Rakhat Aliyev and someone at the top is very much afraid that Rakhat will leak information on who ordered and carried out Altynbek Sarsenbayev's murder," Respublika editor-in-chief Galina Dyrdina told a news conference in Almaty on October 31. Aliyev is living in self-imposed exile in Austria after a failed extradition bid by Kazakhstan. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Tax inspectors have visited Respublika's office several times over the past few days and attempted on November 1 to deliver a court summons, which staff declined to accept without a lawyer present. Tax officials also visited Svoboda Slova and Vzglyad, attempting to check documents and seize computers. "A nationwide blockade is under way
Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.