Human Rights Issues in Eurasia / Правовые Вопросы В Регионах Евразии

Archive for May 16th, 2013

Kazakhstan: Dangerous Precedent – Journalist At Risk

Posted by Info on 16/05/2013

Journalist Alexander Kharlamov,63, was arrested and was 3 days later  accused of inciting religious strife on the grounds of his forthright atheist views and fears to be sent to a psychiatric institution. He writes a blog, is a regular contributor to the Ridderskiye Vesti and Flash newspapers, and heads a rights group called Secret Service. He is particularly well known for campaigning against corruption, and has written extensive on malpractice among municipal, police and prosecution service staff in his town. His case raises concerns about the misuse of psychiatric medicine for punitive ends, a practice common in the Soviet period.

 Article 164 of Kazakstan criminal code makes it illegal to engage in actions intended “to incite social, ethnic, clan, racial or religious enmity or animosity”, and refers also to “the ethnic honour and dignity or religious feelings of citizens”.

The criminal investigation experts appointed to assess Kharlamov’s published work, who concluded that 28 of the 36 articles they looked at qualified as incitement. One of the offending passages referred to religion in general as “an ideology based on primitive ideas and concepts, myths, lies and deception”.

Sergei Duvanov, a well-known journalist in Kazakstan, said the legal moves against Kharlamov were in clear breach of the right to freedom of expression. “He’s expressing his point of view. It doesn’t matter whether it’s correct or not, whether it coincides with the views of the majority of people, or whether he’s in the minority,” 

In a resolution from April 18, the European Parliament noted Kharlamov’s detention along with other cases where human rights activists and opposition members had been prosecuted. The resolution urged Kazakstan’s government to revoke Article 164 and called for talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union to be suspended until the country significantly improved its human rights record.



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