Western province cut off as government cracks down on protests

first_img Kazakh reporter accuses police of attacking her RSF_en Receive email alerts February 5, 2021 Find out more December 19, 2011 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Western province cut off as government cracks down on protests Reporters Without Borders condemns the media and communications blackout that has beenimposed on the western province of Mangystau, especially the city of Zhanaozen, followingdeadly clashes between protesters and police there on 16 December.“The strict control of news and information that the Kazakh authorities are trying to maintainis intolerable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If they want to prove that they are as ‘open’and ‘transparent’ as they claim, they must immediately lift the many restrictions that have beenimposed on journalists, do everything necessary to restore communications with Mangystauprovince and end Internet censorship. “The international community must not remain indifferent to such unacceptable practices bya government that held the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s rotating presidency in 2010.” Three days after the outbreak of the deadly unrest, it is still hard to obtain information about whatreally happened and about the current situation. Zhanaozen, the epicentre of the protests, andthe surrounding towns continue to be without telecommunications and Internet connections andare cut off from the outside world. Officially, this has been attributed to damaged cables.Kazis Toguzbayev, a reporter for Radio Azattyk (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s Kazakh-language service), told Reporters Without Borders that all connections have been severed fromabout Zhetybai, a town 65 km outside Zhanaozen, onwards. Sending or receiving SMS messagesor mobile phone Internet connections are impossible in the rest of the region, including Aktau, theprovincial capital, where tense demonstrations have taken place.Twitter was restored on 17 December after been suspended throughout the country on thefirst day of the riots but several leading news websites continue to be inaccessible, includingGuljan.org, the Russian citizen news agency Ridus.ru, and the site of the opposition newspaperRespublika. Several sources said YouTube was partially blocked last weekend, especially theindependent satellite TV station K+’s account.President Nursultan Nazarbayev has declared a 20-day state of emergency in Zhanaozen andcheckpoints have been set up around both Zhanaozen and Aktau. Journalists cannot enterZhanaozen without accreditation from the provincial government. The first journalists to enter thecity were escorted everywhere by soldiers. They said the streets were almost deserted aside fromthe heavily armed men patrolling them. In these circumstances, it is very hard to talk to residents,who for the most part are saying nothing. “A few women venture on to the streets, but hardly any men because they are immediatelystopped and searched,” a reporter said. “The soldiers allowed us to visit the hospital and themorgue, but not to cover the funerals of people who had been shot (…) In Aktau, the specialforces keeping demonstrators under surveillance refused to answer our questions. We wantedto know why they are equipped with automatic firearms instead of non-lethal weapons such aswater cannon.”The authorities are now trying to monitor and control journalists rather than prevent themfrom working altogether, as they did during the first few days. Vladimir Solovyev, a reporterwith the Russian newspaper Kommersant, photographer Vasily Shaposhnikov and Lenta.rucorrespondent Ilya Azar were detained for several hours at a Zhanaozen police station on 18December for “contravening the state of emergency.” The content of their computers, USB flashdrives and audio recorders was closely examined.Special forces imposed severe restrictions on the movements of reporters from Stan TV, RadioAzattyk, Associated Press and Al-Jazeera on 18 December when they went to Shetpe, anothertown in the province, where clashes at its station the previous day left a toll of one dead and 11injured. The blogger Murat Tungishbayev was roughed up and threatened when he tried to film apolice check. “Two members of the special forces asked me to delete what I had filmed,” he toldReporters Without Borders. “When I refused, they forced me to the ground and put a gun to mytemple. Then they hit me and confiscated my identity documents.” He got his ID papers back laterthe same day.The clashes began in Zhanaozen on 16 December when oil workers who have been on strike formonths disrupted celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. Instill unclear circumstance, the police fired live rounds on a crowd of demonstrators, triggering riotsthroughout the city in which many government buildings were set on fire. Officially, the toll was 13confirmed dead but other sources say it was much higher.On the next day there were violent clashes at Shetpe station, where strikers tried to block therail line, and in other surrounding villages. The atmosphere is extremely tense in Aktau, theprovince’s largest city, where there have been demonstrations in support of the strikers for thepast two days. The media freedom situation has deteriorated considerable this year in Kazakhstan, whereunrest is growing. The strikes and protests in Mangystau have being going on for more than sixmonths, despite a heavy-handed crackdown. The growing harassment of independent newsmedia is linked in large part to the autocratic government’s desire to restrict coverage of thisproblem. to go further News Organisation KazakhstanEurope – Central Asia January 15, 2021 Find out more Follow the news on Kazakhstan (Photo: Vasily Shaposhnikov/ Kommersant/ AFP) News Help by sharing this information Regional newspaper editor harassed after investigating real estate scandal KazakhstanEurope – Central Asia News Reporters prevented from covering Kazakh parliamentary elections October 30, 2020 Find out more Newslast_img read more