Monthly Archives: February 2016

Head of Kazakh journalists’ union detained

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New York, February 22, 2016–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by today’s detention of Seytkazy Matayev, head of the Kazakh Journalists’ Union and the chair of National Press Club, in Almaty.

Agents of Kazakhstan’s National Anticorruption Bureau this morning came to Matayev’s home and that of his son, Aset Matayev, who is the director of the independent news agency KazTag, and detained them on suspicion of having committed tax fraud and embezzling state funds, local and international press reported. Authorities released Aset Matayev after questioning, but continued to detain his father, Aset told CPJ in a phone call. Neither man has yet been formally charged.

“If Kazakh authorities have evidence that either Seytkazy or Aset Matayev committed a crime, let them produce it,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator. “Otherwise, the Kazakh and Almaty governments should immediately stop harassing the two, and refrain from leveling unfounded accusations against journalists in an effort to intimidate them.”

In a statement, the Anticorruption Bureau accused Seytkazy Matayev of embezzling 380 million Kazakh tenge (about US$1 million) from funds transferred by the Kazakh Information Committee and state monopoly KazakhTelecom to the press club and KazTag under a contract to promote national policies. Authorities also accused Matayev of failing to pay 327 million tenge in taxes related to an unnamed illegal enterprise.

Anti-corruption authorities in the same statement said they were investigating whether Matayev mishandled 169 million tenge from contracts with local authorities in Almaty. The agency called Matayev’s alleged crimes “grave,” and noted that if convicted, he could face up to 12 years in prison and the confiscation of his assets.

Aset Matayev told CPJ that he believed the charges were baseless and retaliatory. “We always reported the truth. [We] depicted the facts about developments in Kazakhstan as they really were. Someone in power did not like it,” he said.

In a statement carried by KazTag, Aset Matayev said that both the news agency and the press club were indeed contracted by the state agencies to carry reports promoting national policies, and that both organizations fulfilled the contracts and reported on the all projects.

In a statement both Matayevs sent to Adil Soz, a local press freedom group, moments before their detention, the two said various state and city authorities started harassing them in January. The statement listed several agencies – including the Almaty tax police, the city’s Architecture Department, and the national anticorruption agency – that sent officers to visit the news agency and the press club, housed in the same building, to question them about various accusations.

In a press conference in Almaty today, Tamara Kaleyeva, head of Adil Soz, and local journalist Yermurat Bapi told journalists that charges against Seytkazy Matayev were retaliation for critical reports KazTag had published and the press club had published on its website ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled to be held March 20.

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New York Times Awards David Carr Fellowships to 3 Journalists

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The New York Times announced on Tuesday that it had chosen three journalists to spend two years in its newsroom as part of a fellowship named for the media columnist David Carr.

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The Times had initially said it would select just one person for the fellowship, which was created after Mr. Carr’s death in 2015. Instead, John Herrman, a co-editor and media reporter for The Awl; Amanda Hess, a staff writer at Slate; and Greg Howard, a reporter for Deadspin, will all join the Times newsroom on March 15.

The three were chosen from more than 600 applicants, from countries all over the world, by a panel of Times editors.

“We found these three candidates so compelling that we decided to select all of them,” said Dean Baquet, The Times’s executive editor. “They are thoughtful, deep reporters. We will learn as much from them as they will from us.”

Mr. Herrman, 28, known for his long essays about the Internet and technology, will work with The Times’s media group and write primarily for the Business section. Ms. Hess, 30, who covers the human side of web culture for Slate, will join the Culture section. And Mr. Howard, 27, who has written about race and sports at Deadspin since 2013, will work with The New York Times Magazine and other sections.

The Times created the fellowship to honor Mr. Carr, who was known for a writing style that was both plain-spoken and elegant. In his weekly Media Equation column, he displayed his passion for chronicling the ways in which technology was affecting the media industry and culture at large.

Egypt is one of the ‘biggest prisons’ for journalists, says watchdog

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TheGardian:The situation for journalists in Egypt has become “unacceptable” with dozens of reporters and bloggers being held in jail, Reporters Without Borders has said in an open letter to the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

 

Egypt jails author Ahmed Naji for sexually explicit book
The Paris-based watchdog urged the government to release at least 32 reporters said to be being detained or serving prison sentences.

In April last year, Reporters without Borders ranked Egypt 158th out of 180 countries in its global press freedom index. Since then, the number of raids on media organisations and reporter arrests has continued to rise.

In December, the Committee to Protect Journalists listed Egypt as the second biggest jailer of journalists worldwide, trailing shortly behind China. The number of those imprisoned rose dramatically in 2015, nearly doubling after Sisi’s administration assumed power.

Prominent cases include the detention of investigative reporter Hossam Bahgat, who was summoned for questioning by military intelligence over an article he wrote for the online news site Mada Masr in early November.

Bahgat was detained and released two days later after agreeing not to write about the army beyond specific legal boundaries set out by the authorities. The case against him remains ongoing.

“In 2015, Egypt became one the world’s biggest prisons for journalists. In most cases, their only ‘error’ was to have covered demonstrations or protests or to have spoken with members of the Muslim Brotherhood [which Egypt has declared to be a ‘terrorist organisation’] in the course of their reporting,” Reporters Without Borders said.

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