International PEN protests the detention of Ramazan Yesergepov, editor-in-chief of the weekly Alma-Ata Info, who was taken from his hospital bed on January 6, 2009 and continues to be held without charge. PEN urges Ramazan Yesergepov’s immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and seeks assurances of his well being. It urges that he is given full access to all necessary medical assistance as a matter of urgency.

Background Information

Ramazan Yesergepov, editor of the Almaty-based independent weekly Alma-Ata Info, was being treated for hypertension at the Cardiology Institute in Almaty when armed and masked security officers entered the hospital and took him away on January 6, 2009. The editor was taken to the Taraz regional office in southern Kazakhstan, where he was interrogated by the Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB). According to a statement by the KNB on January 13, Yesergepov was arrested because he repeatedly ignored subpoenas issued by the agency.

Alma-Ata Info has been investigated since December 2008 for the disclosure of two leaked memos published alongside an article in its November 21 issue. The article in question, ‘Who rules the Country - The President or the KNB?" is said to deal with a tax fraud allegation involving a local prosecutor and a judge. KNB officers raided the weekly’s newsroom, seizing the hard drives of seven computers.

There are recent reports that state that Yesergepov has not yet being charged, but that he has been threatened with charges of  "disclosure of state secrets"  for which he faces up to eight years in prison and a ban on professional activities of up to three years. There are also serious concerns that the editor has been denied adequate medical treatment.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting quotes Miklos Haraszti, Representative on Freedom of the Media from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who, in a letter to the Kazakh Foreign Minister referred to Yesergepov’s detention, stating that: “Keeping him under arrest, just as threatening him with imprisonment, would be a violation of the OSCE commitment to facilitate a fearless atmosphere for journalism.”

In the last month, two other assaults against the press have been reported in Kazakhstan, further weakening freedom of expression in the country. On January 18, 2009, Yermek Boltai, journalist and editor for the Kazakh service of the news site Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was beaten by five men outside his home in Almaty. Boltai covers social issues. Also in Almaty, Bakhytzhan Nuerpeisov, journalist for the weekly Obshchestvennaya Pozitsiva, was attacked on February 5 while on his way home. The journalist had recently criticized a local authority for its spending on luxury properties, in contrast to the deteriorating economic situation of  the residents.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the detention without charge of editor-in-chief Ramazan Yesergepov, since January 6, 2009;
  • Calling for his immediate and unconditional release if detained in contravention of his right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kazakhstan is a signatory;
  • Seeking assurances of Ramazan Yesergepov’s well being, and urging that he is given full access to all necessary medical assistance as a matter of urgency;
  • Calling on the Kazakh authorities to unequivocally condemn all attacks on the independent press and to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists.

Send Your Letter To

Mr Nursultan Abish-uly Nazarbayev
President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Office of the President
11 Mira Street
Astana 473000
Kazakhstan

Mr Amanzhol Zhankuliyev
Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva
16, Chemin du Prunier
Case postale 6
1218 Grand-Saconnex
Geneva, Switzerland
Fax: +41 22 7886602
E-mail: mission.kazakstan@ties.itu.int

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Kazakhstan in your country if possible.

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after March 12, 2009: ftw [at] pen.org