15 March 2004
Sports journalist assaulted
(RSF/IFEX) - On 11 March 2004, sports journalist Maxim Khartashov was attacked and beaten by two unidentified assailants in Almaty. Khartashov has frequently exposed corruption scandals in Kazakhstan's sports sector.
RSF expressed concern about the attack on Khartashov, a journalist from the opposition weekly "Vremya". It was the second incident involving a sports journalist in the country in less than one month.
"The editor-in-chief of the weekly 'Sport & KS' was [previously] dismissed because he criticised the authorities, and Maxim Khartashov was probably attacked because of the articles he wrote," the organisation noted. "These journalists should be able to do their jobs without obstruction and without fearing for their safety, in the same way that other members of the profession do," RSF added, while calling on those leading the investigation into the attack to focus their inquiries on the connection with Khartashov's work.
On 11 March, at around 5:00 p.m. (local time), a man followed Khartashov as he left his newspaper office, while another man was waiting for the journalist in front of his home. A few minutes earlier, unknown callers had phoned Khartashov's home and office to find out where he was.
The journalist suffered head and facial injuries and is still being treated in hospital.
Khartashov believes the attack was linked to his work because the two men did not attempt to rob him. He believes the attack may have been in reprisal for his articles exposing drug scandals, match-fixing and embezzlement in the sports sector.
On 12 February, Nesip Zhunusbayev, editor-in-chief of the weekly "Sport & KS", was dismissed by Minister of Tourism and Sport Daulet Turlykhanov, because of his criticism of the government concerning sports issues (see IFEX alert of 17 February 2004).
In an article published in January, Zhunusbayev had criticised the way in which Kazakh athletes are being trained and prepared for the upcoming Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. He also criticised the privatisation of several sports facilities and called for more government support for sports development in rural areas.