Imprisonment of journalist violates Kazakhstan’s commitments, says OSCE media freedom representative

11 August. OSCE. VIENNA

Imprisonment of journalist violates Kazakhstan's commitments, says OSCE media freedom representativeMiklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said today that the three-year prison term handed down in a closed trial to Ramazan Yesergepov, the editor of Alma-Ata Info, violated international standards and OSCE commitments on media freedom.

“Criminalizing civilians or journalists for breach of secrecy deprives the public of important information and leaves investigative journalism without one of its most important tools; the liberty to go beyond official stonewalling. Revealing possible wrongdoings of the authorities is the main duty of the journalists acting in the public interest,” said Haraszti in a letter to Kazakh Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin.

Ramazan Yesergepov was sentenced on 8 August for disclosing internal documents of the Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) in an article published in Alma-Ata Info on 21 November 2008. The article, entitled “Who rules the country, the President or the KNB?”, criticized KNB actions, including secret information campaigns against a private company.

“Criminal sanctions for ‘breach of secrecy’ should only apply to the officials whose job descriptions stipulate the duty to protect sensitive information, but not to citizens who transmitted or published that information,” said Haraszti.

“I still hope that Kazakhstan, which will chair the OSCE in 2010, will provide a safe working environment for journalists covering social and political issues.”

Haraszti urged the authorities to overturn Ramazan Yesergepov’s sentence and allow him to start publishing his newspaper again.