Freedom House is pleased that Igor Vinyavskiy, editor of the Kazakhstani opposition newspaper “Vzglyad,” was given amnesty and released from the Committee of National Security’s detention center just hours ago. The district court in Almaty decided to close the criminal investigation against Vinyaskiy. He was arrested on January 23 and accused of creating and distributing a leaflet calling on the Kazakh people to oust president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Vinyavskiy denied these allegations, and believes the charges against him were in retaliation for his work. Local journalists suspected that coverage of the violent Zhanaozen events – the deadly clashes between police and oil workers in December 2011 – prompted the editor’s arrest. Vzglyad has been the target of numerous lawsuits in the past year in connection with stories it published.
Freedom House rated Kazakhstan “Not Free” in its recent Freedom of the World survey. Despite constitutional guarantees, the government imposes restrictions on freedom of expression and press freedom. Kazakh media remain subject to legal restrictions, defamation suits and pressure by politicians. Journalists who are willing to criticize the government continue to face obstacles in reporting – including harassment and reprisals for speaking out.