February 12, 2024

12.02.2024 – SEEMO Condemns Detention of Journalist Duman Mukhammedkarim in Kazakhstan

Today on 12 February 2024 a court process started in Kazakhstan against Duman Mukhammedkarim (Думан Мұхаммедкәрім – @dumanmukhammedkarim), a journalist critical of the government. He on charges of extremism, marking yet another instance of the government’s crackdown on dissent.

Mukhammedkarim said that he has not yet read the charge and court documents, and asked the court to give him 15 days to study the case. He also asked for house arrest, so that he can better study the case. The court refused to put him under house arrest. Supporters of Mukhammedkarim and journalists could not enter the courtroom. The defense requested that the trial should be held in public. After the first court-day the journalist was taken to the detention center in Taldykorgan (Талдықорған).

Mukhammedkarim, aged 45, is the creator of the ND YouTube media channel (https://www.youtube.com/@ND-arnasy), also known as “Ne Deydi” (What they say), boasting approximately 145,000 subscribers. Over the past two years, he has been covering significant anti-government protests since January 2022, detailing the authorities’ response and the ensuing aftermath. Additionally, Mukhammedkarim ran as an independent candidate in the local parliamentary elections held in March 2023, although he did not secure a seat.

Mukhammedkarim’s troubles began in June 2023 when he was detained and subsequently held in pretrial detention on accusations of financing extremist activities and participating in the activities of a banned extremist organization. These charges carry a potential prison sentence of up to nine years. As reaction in Summer he went on hunger strike.

Over a span from 21 March to 22 June 2023, he endured a cumulative period of 75 days in administrative custody. These detentions were a consequence of his dissemination of details concerning forthcoming protests or declarations of his intention to participate in street demonstrations.

The catalyst for his arrest stems from a 20 December 2023 interview he conducted with Mukhtar Ablyazov (Мұхтар Әблязов), the exiled leader of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan – DVK (Қазақстанның демократиялық таңдауы – QDT) movement, which was labeled extremist and banned by Kazakh authorities in 2018.

Despite claims by authorities that the interview promoted extremist views, a subsequent analysis found no evidence of advocating for violence. Moreover, Mukhammedkarim’s coverage of political events and peaceful protests has drawn further scrutiny, with authorities accusing him of violating Kazakhstan’s restrictive laws on assembly.

Mukhammedkarim now becomes the second individual critical of the government to face trial on sweeping charges of extremism in recent times. Previously, on 30 November 2023, a court in Astana (Астана), Kazakhstan handed a seven-year prison term to Marat Zhylanbaev (Марат Төлегенұлы Жыланбаев), another government opponent.

Despite President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokaev’s (Қасым-Жомарт Тоқаев) assurances of legislative integrity, calls for the immediate release of Mukhammedkarim and others detained on similar grounds persist, emphasizing the need to uphold fundamental human rights and protect journalists’ ability to operate freely.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the arrest and trial of journalist Duman Mukhammedkarim in Kazakhstan.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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