ALMATY Oct 3 The head of Kazakhstan's national
journalists' union was sentenced to six years in prison on
Monday after being convicted of embezzlement and tax evasion
along with his son, in a case condemned by press freedom
activists locally and abroad.
Seitkazy Matayev, who owns local news agency KazTAG, stood
trial with his son Aset, chief executive of the same agency, who
was sentenced to five years.
Prosecutors accused the Matayevs of embezzling about $1
million in funds transferred to them by a government agency and
state-controlled firm KazakhTelecom under a contract to write
positive stories to promote national policies. Both denied any
Kazakh press freedom advocacy group Adil Soz described the
sentence as "abuse of law and common sense".
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists had
urged the authorities to drop the charges.
"The Kazakh government is only shaming itself with this
prosecution and detention of a father-son team of independent
journalists," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator
Nina Ognianova said.
The Central Asian nation, run by President Nursultan
Nazarbayev since independence in 1991, has in recent years been
clamping down further on already limited press freedoms,
government critics and rights groups say. In late 2014, a Kazakh
court shut down Adam Bol, a magazine often critical of the
government, on charges of "propagandising for war".
The owner and editor of news website Nakanune.kz, Guzal
Baidalinova, was sentenced to 18 months in prison this year on
charges of disseminating false information that threatened
public order, although her sentence was later replaced with a
(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)