Human Rights Watch has called on authorities in Kazakhstan to investigate "swiftly and effectively" an attack on a critical journalist in the western city of Aktobe.
Igor Larra, a correspondent with the Svoboda Slova newspaper, suffered a head injury and bruises on his body when four unidentified men attacked him with a crowbar on August 20, the Almaty-based Adil Soz foundation for the protection of freedom of speech said on August 21.
The journalist linked the attack to a number of critical articles he has written about the governor of Aktobe Region, Arkhimed Mukhambetov, Adil Soz said.
Adil Soz says Larra was also attacked in March 2010 for what it believes was his coverage of an oil workers' strike in the town of Zhanaozen and other problems in Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector.
“A critical journalist who has been attacked before has been hit over the head with a crowbar,” said Mihra Rittmann, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This follows a pattern in Kazakhstan. The authorities need to get to the bottom of what happened to Igor Larra, including whether it was related to his work.”
In a separate incident, blogger and activist Rinat Kibrayev says he was attacked outside his apartment in Almaty overnight on August 23 and then driven out of town and beaten up. The assailers demanded he stop his political activities, he said in a video report posted by the 1612 news channel on August 24. Those activities recently included poking fun at Astana’s attempts to extradite fugitive banker Mukhtar Ablyazov. (The 1612 news channel – presumably named for the Zhanaozen events of December 16, 2011 (16-12-11), when police shot dead 15 protesters -- is wildly believed to be funded by Ablyazov.)
Kazakhstan is no stranger to the harassment and persecution of critical journalists: According to Freedom House's 2013 Freedom of the Press index, it ranked 182nd out of 197 countries and territories worldwide.