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Lukpan Akhmedyarov: “The judicial system has become a way of hounding independent news media”

first_img News Regional newspaper editor harassed after investigating real estate scandal October 30, 2020 Find out more This is an exclusive Reporters Without Borders interview with Lukpan Akhmedyarov, a Kazakh journalist who will receive the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism at a ceremony in Washington today. Akhmedyarov was the target of a murder attempt in April and has been subjected to judicial persecution ever since.—-Reporters Without Borders : Lukpan Akhmedyarov, can you tell us about the lawsuits you are facing?Lukpan Akhmedyarov: Lawsuits and demands for millions of tenge (tens of thousands of euros) in damages have become routine. But curiously, in the case of our newspaper, Uralskaya Nedelya, it is only senior officials who are filing lawsuits and the lawsuits only concern articles about government corruption. In all these cases, the plaintiffs claim they have been defamed and demand exorbitant damages well in excess of their annual income. And the courts always accede to their requests.Personally, I have no doubt that the latest lawsuit filed by local deputy governor Abzal Braliyev will be successful and that I and my newspaper will again be asked to pay millions of tenge. In murder cases, judges order no more than a million tenge in compensation, but journalists who are supposed to have defamed an official are asked to pay 5 to 10 million tenge (30,000 to 60,000 euros). It is impossible for a journalist or a newspaper to comply with such rulings.The law clearly states that court decisions must respect the principles of rationality and legality and must be capable of being carried out. But all the court rulings issued against us have been completely impracticable. How can this encourage respect for the judicial system and the law?RWB: Under Kazakhstan’s laws, libel suits automatically target both the article’s author and the newspaper in which it is published. What steps are you taking to protect yourselves and demonstrate the accuracy of what you reported?LA: We (…) produce evidence, including documentary evidence, to support our claims but the courts always side with the authorities. Right now, we have gone to the supreme court to contest the ruling issued against us as a result of a complaint by Tlekkabyl Imashev, a senior official. We were ordered to pay 5 million tenge in damages, and this was upheld on appeal. We intend to exhaust all the appeal possibilities. At the same time, we are awaiting a ruling on the lawsuit brought by a member of the financial police, Arman Kojakhmetov, who is demanding 3 million tenge (approx. 18,000 euros) in damages. Again, I am not deluding myself about the probable outcome. Braliyev’s suit is the third one against me.RWB: Why are you so sceptical about your chances of demonstrating your good faith and obtaining justice?LA: Because I see how these trials are conducted. It is clear to me that the authorities want to get rid of Uralskaya Nedelya and get rid of a journalist who annoys them. At the same time, they are trying to make it look legal. In practice, local senior officials control the court and rulings are handed down “by phone call.” In our city, Uralsk, for example, the same judge, Batykgul Baymagambetova, handles all lawsuits by local officials against our newspaper. It is hard to believe that this is a coincidence. We assume they trust her with all these cases because she issues rulings in a predictable and guaranteed fashion.Her rulings have been full of irregularities. Last week we submitted six motions to recuse her. That our motions were rejected is one thing, but it was the judge herself who personally examined and rejected the last four motions. A judge who examines motions for her own removal? This is legal nonsense, but it is standard practice in Kazakhstan.RWB: And yet you are appealing against all of these decisions before higher courts. Do you think they provide better defence and protection?LA: No. If I could ask for the entire Kazakh judicial system to be recused, I would. We appeal to higher courts in order to eventually refer the case to the European Court of Human Rights. You cannot do that without exhausting all possibilities of legal recourse at the national level first. We have no illusions about Kazakh justice. It will always do what the politicians want. These cases are the best possible proof that objective and independent justice does not exist in Kazakhstan. It is a sort of experiment, if you like, the result of which we unfortunately all know in advance.RWB: So you think the courts never rule in favour of journalists and news media?LA: Yes. It pains me to see how the judicial system is used against society. Sure, you could say: “Big deal! A small provincial newspaper, Uralskaya Nedelya, is going to disappear but there are thousands of others. There is no reason to worry.” But even if Uralskaya Nedelya is a provincial newspaper, is it very important for the local community. As all the other media are controlled by the authorities, Uralskaya Nedelya has become the only source of alternative news and information, the only one that respects the principles of honest journalism and allows views to be freely expressed. If our newspaper did not exist, people would lose hope of social change. There are no longer many newspapers like this in Kazakhstan. There will soon be no more pluralism in Kazakhstan if newspapers like ours disappear.RWB: Aren’t you afraid that the damages awards will ruin your family?LA: The exorbitant damages no longer worry me. There is no way I will be able to pay them because my earnings are very modest (…) In the course of ten years of working as a journalist, I have been sued many times because of what I wrote. My adversaries have always been senior officials or the heads of big firms linked to the government. The officials responsible for ensuring that court decisions are legal have not objected to any of the illegal rulings against me. I regretfully have to say that in Kazakhstan the judicial system has become a way of harassing the news media.Interviewed by Rozlana Taukina for Reporters Without Borders(Picture: Uralskaya Nedelya) RSF_en News January 15, 2021 Find out more KazakhstanEurope – Central Asia October 12, 2012 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Lukpan Akhmedyarov: “The judicial system has become a way of hounding independent news media” Follow the news on Kazakhstan to go furthercenter_img News Help by sharing this information February 5, 2021 Find out more KazakhstanEurope – Central Asia Reporters prevented from covering Kazakh parliamentary elections Kazakh reporter accuses police of attacking her Organisation Receive email alerts Newslast_img read more

Gee Whizz: here comes the science

first_imgSmoking causes cancer. ‘Really?’ I hear you say, ‘Thanks ever so much for that original and enlightening gem of information; from now on I will refrain from such a potentially lethal habit.’ Or perhaps not. We have been saturated with messages like this ever since primary school, to the point that they lose their impact on their bored listeners, and so it is easy to forget that those living in a pre-Richard Doll existence were ignorant to such findings. ‘Who is this miraculous man?’ you wonder breathlessly (although admittedly that’s not in amazement but due to the fact that you’ve just smoked a box of Lambert and Butlers.)Richard Doll was heavily involved in research into the relationship between smoking and cancer, a connection he and his colleagues discovered through a study of lung cancer patients. The original hypothesis of these observations theorised that the individuals in question were perhaps affected by the then-new material of tarmac, or perhaps car fumes, until it was discovered that the only connection between them was their tobacco habit (although the suggestion that Richard noticed this trend when joined by the fifty-or-so participants for a quick ciggie on the fire escape is fabricated by, well, me actually).Doll’s place in history was thus established, and while some say that all roads lead to some dusty old place called Rome, it was perhaps inevitable that Richard would end up in Oxford. And so he did, taking up the post of Regius Professor of Medicine in 1969, beginning a new chapter in his very busy career as he almost single-handedly changed public perceptions of epidemiology and became the first warden of Green College.Doll was actually a bit of a multi-tasker. While his work at Oxford is significant in its own right, his findings elsewhere transformed public perceptions of what was once seen as a harmless habit (the children of the Russian royal family couldn’t get enough of the stuff), and brought home its true implications. The fact that we poor students don’t get a tenner every time we give blood (à la USA) is kind of his fault though, as he was key in avoiding such an idea through his work with the National Blood Service. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.by Gareth Peterslast_img read more

Cotton Equipment Donation

first_imgA south Georgia cotton gin is helping the University of Georgia’s C.M. Stripling Irrigation Research Park (SIRP) harvest cotton more efficiently thanks to their donation of a cotton module builder and cotton boll buggy.Funston Gin, in Funston, Georgia, donated the two pieces of equipment, valued at $25,000, last harvest season to help the park harvest its cotton plots in the fall. SIRP Superintendent Calvin Perry said the module builder and boll buggy are welcome additions to the park’s inventory, especially given the amount of cotton research conducted at SIRP every year.“When you deal with plots like we do, you may pick some for Dr. (John) Snider today and, in two days, you may pick some for Dr. (Wes) Porter. We just needed a way to better handle cotton between researchers,” Perry said.SIRP enables the study of irrigation effects on various crops, including cotton, peanuts and corn. Perry said that last year, the park devoted 25 acres to cotton research. Those 25 acres were divided into hundreds of different plots that contained the research of different scientists within UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.In previous years, the park used trailers to handle the harvested cotton. Perry said that most current cotton gins are not set up to handle trailers; this led to the need to switch to more modern cotton-handling equipment. Funston Gin has been ginning the park’s cotton for many years. Owner Tom Stallings was eager to aid UGA in cotton research.“It’s a great pleasure to be able to help them. I fully intend to solicit my other cotton partners in the ginning industry and production industry to see if we can’t get more money into researching cotton,” Stallings said.The cotton picker dumps the cotton into the boll buggy trailer after moving through the field. The picked cotton is then transferred into the module builder, a big, rectangular mechanism that presses the picked cotton into big bundles. This allows gin truckers to haul the harvested crop easily from the field.“If we’re waiting a couple of days for a scientist’s plots to be ready, we can let the cotton sit in that boll buggy for a few days under a shelter without having to put it into a module builder and run the risk of having rain get on it. It gives us some handling flexibility that’s very useful,” Perry said. “It definitely serves our needs quite well.”last_img read more

Hawkeyes hope QB Christensen improves

first_imgThe scoreboard at the end of the game might have only read 15-13 in favor of the Iowa State Cyclones, but Iowa Hawkeye fans know the real score between the two bitter in-state rivals is really much worse.Although the Hawkeyes have dominated in the series’ 31-year history — at one point winning 15 consecutive games against the Cyclones — the team has struggled since the 1998 season. Since then, the Cy-Hawk trophy has been in Ames, not Iowa City, for seven of the past 10 years.In Ames, the Hawkeyes have not fared well of late either, winning one in the past 10 years.”It certainly was a disappointing weekend for us in Ames,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said in a press conference Tuesday. “It was a huge rivalry game and [Iowa State] clearly outplayed us and handed us a loss on what was basically the last play of the game.”While the Iowa head coach certainly didn’t want to start conference play 2-1, he has been quick to make sure his players don’t dwell on the loss.”Yes, it will sting for a while, but we need to go back to work fast, and in a quality manner, because we are playing an outstanding football team this weekend,” Ferentz said.Iowa will have to bring its “A-game” this Saturday when the team rolls into Madison. After a poor offensive day this past weekend, the Hawkeyes hope their sophomore quarterback Jake Christensen, who scored the lone touchdown on the day using his feet instead of his arm, will be able to get the passing game up to par as well.Hart makes good on promiseIn a storied rivalry that exists between Michigan and Notre Dame, the teams have never played in a game quite like the one last weekend. With both sitting on 0-2 records for the first time ever, the two winningest programs in college football history faced off not for a BCS bid, but for less public scrutiny.Michigan came out victorious in the contest, looking much like the team that was originally pegged as the Big Ten favorite heading into the season. Michigan running back Mike Hart, who had earlier in the week guaranteed a win versus the Irish, came through for the Wolverines, rushing for 187 yards.Despite the numerous calls for his resignation after Michigan’s surprising start, head coach Lloyd Carr believes that the season is far from being over.”We are still looking to be the best in our conference, despite what has happened so far,” Carr said. “We have the next eight weeks to show what we can do against these conference teams. There are a lot of rivalries to play out still, and as long as there is one more game, there is always something to play for.”Michigan will go from facing the worst statistical offense in D-I football, Notre Dame, to facing one of the best, Penn State.Although Penn State has looked good to start, it has historically struggled against the Wolverines. Its last win came back in 1996.Keep the ball rollingOne of the more surprising teams of the 2007 season has been the Michigan State Spartans, a team many wrote off early in the year due to their new young coach and traditionally tough schedule.After a 2006 season that included several close losses, including one against Notre Dame at home in front of a national audience, the Spartans came into the season with question marks all over the field. In addition to losing senior quarterback Drew Stanton to the Detroit Lions, the Spartans also sustained heavy losses at wide receiver.However, the flight of key members of the offensive unit has not disrupted the team’s ability to put points on the board. Through three games, the Spartans have put up a very respectable 100 points on offense.In their most recent game against Pittsburgh, first year head coach Mark Dantonio was pleased with what he saw.”This football game (against Pitt) was very important to us from a confidence standpoint,” Dantonio said. “We played very well on defense, taking back one of our four turnovers for a score. We were able to move the ball fairly well, but we need to work on finishing the drives we put together.”Michigan State will look to move to 4-0 as they head down to South Bend to play the struggling Notre Dame Irish this weekend.”Going down to Notre Dame will be a huge challenge for us this week,” Dantonio said. “It is a rivalry game that our players will be very excited to play.”last_img read more