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15 May 2024

ProTenge’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief Found Guilty of “Spreading False Information”

Investigative journalist, founder, and editor-in-chief of the independent media ProTenge Jamilya Maricheva was fined for her January post on Telegram expressing support for Radio Azattyq’s journalists.

Jamilya Maricheva

Image: Jamilya Maricheva/FB

On 24 April, Jamilya Maricheva, founder and editor-in-chief of ProTenge, one of the few independent media in Kazakhstan, was arrested by the police in Almaty. The reason for her arrest was ProTenge’s January post on Telegram expressing support for Radio Azattyq’s journalists over not getting accreditation from the Kazakh authorities. 

Maricheva was arrested while jogging that evening. In a post on her Instagram account, she jokingly added that the police could have written a message asking her to come to the police station with a lawyer and documents instead of using “technical capabilities” to find where she was running.

On 13 May, the Almaty Administrative Court found Maricheva guilty of “spreading false information,” Radio Azattyq reports. The journalist must pay a fine of 73,840 tenge (167 USD) for “deliberately distorting the grounds for a refusal to renew accreditation.”

The post in question simply states the fact that “36 journalists from Radio Azattyk have not received accreditation, without which they will not be able to work.” It further explains why this is important news and states all of Radio Azattyq’s published investigations that were significant to the Kazakh public. 

For example, the investigation of “the luxurious houses of the Nazarbayevs, which have been purchased by the family members over the past two decades. The list includes luxury homes worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Europe and the United States, properties on luxurious lakeshores and among the skyscrapers of Manhattan, in the London suburbs, and the Costa Brava resort in Spain.” 

The post further argues that the reason for not issuing accreditation to 36 Azattyq reporters is the new amendment to the bill on mass media, which we reported on back in February. “According to them, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may refuse accreditation to foreign media and their journalists ‘in the event of a threat to the national security of the Republic of Kazakhstan.’ In addition, without accreditation, foreign media and foreign journalists are prohibited from engaging in professional journalistic activities,” the post further explains. “We express our support to our colleagues from Azattyk who are doing very important work for our country,” it states in the end.

According to the Administrative Court’s press service, “Maricheva deliberately distorted the grounds for a refusal to extend accreditation,” Forbes Kazakhstan reports. Adding that, “the ministry’s decision to refuse to renew accreditation was made on the basis of repeated violations by the editors and journalists of Radio Azattyk of the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the field of media, in particular the regulations on the activities of foreign media representative offices and the activities of journalists in the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan.” 

In response to these allegations, Maricheva said in court that she believes the information published in ProTenge’s Telegram post to be true and not violating “public order and the rights and interests of citizens,” The Village Kazakhstan reports.

However, ProTenge’s editor-in-chief wasn’t the only person against whom an administrative case was opened. At the beginning of April, a few days before Maricheva’s arrest, another Kazakh journalist, Askhat Niyazov’s repost of ProTenge’s post on Telegram became a reason for the opening of an administrative case against him. Fortunately for him, on 29 April, the judge dismissed the case due to lack of evidence. 

When the case against Niyazov was announced—prior to Maricheva’s—ProTenge found it absurd that the law enforcement went after a journalist who reposted the original post “instead of going to the original source…and asking these questions directly to ProTenge,” ProTenge stated. However, not long after that, ProTenge’s editor-in-chief became a target of a similar case.

Although both Niyazov and Maricheva were represented by the same lawyer, Asel Tokayev of Mediaqoldau, the Legal Media Center supported by the European Union, the outcome for Maricheva, as we know, wasn’t as successful. 

In response to Radio Azattyq’s question whether she would appeal the court’s decision, Maricheva responded by saying that she had not yet spoken with a lawyer, Radio Azattyq reports