Kazakhstan: Journalist in Hospital After Vicious Attack
A journalist is recovering in a West Kazakhstan Region hospital following a vicious attack in which he was knifed eight times and shot with an air gun, local newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya reports.Lukpan Akhmedyarov, a journalist from Uralskaya Nedelya who is well-known for his hard-hitting reporting, was attacked by five young men near his home in the regional capital of Oral (known in Russian as Uralsk) late on April 19, according to eyewitness reports. He was hit over the back of the head with a heavy object then stabbed eight times, leaving him with deep knife wounds to the jaw, abdomen and chest. The newspaper published a photo of him covered in blood on a stretcher, and quoted a surgeon as saying Akhmedyarov’s body had traces of air gun wounds.Doctors operated and said on April 20 that the journalist’s life was not in danger.Uralskaya Nedelya editor-in-chief Tamara Yeslyamova said she believed the attack was the result of the reporter’s work. She quoted Akhmedyarov as saying the day before the assault that his wife was under pressure at her work over his reporting. In turn, Yeslyamova said, Akhmedyarov’s wife’s managers were being pressured by the security services. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the attack, though it pointed out that it is not yet clear if there is a link to Akhmedyarov’s reporting."This near-fatal attack on Lukpan Akhmedyarov shows just how dangerous it is to be an independent investigative journalist in Kazakhstan," a statement quoted Robert Mahoney, the watchdog’s deputy director, as saying. "Akhmedyarov criticized the government and he now lies in hospital. The authorities must thoroughly investigate this brutal assault and bring the perpetrators to justice."Akhmedyarov has long been known for his critical reporting: In 2009 he was allegedly fired by a local TV channel for quizzing the regional governor about his family's links to corruption, and he has been the target of several libel suits. Last year he was imprisoned for five days over a political protest, for breaching Kazakhstan’s strict freedom of assembly laws. Akhmedyarov’s recent reporting had “criticized President Nursultan Nazarbayev's government and had condemned the regional authorities' unwillingness to address the December clashes between police and oil workers in the town of Zhanaozen,” the CPJ said.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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