Kazakhstani investigative journalist, Mikhail Kozachkov – also a sports journalist in his career for media including Sovetsky Sport (Russia), UEFA.com, Prosport, Liter, and Gazeta.kz – has been arrested and detained in jail from December 18, 2022.
Officers from Kazakhstan’s Financial Monitoring Agency (FMA) arrested him in the southern city of Almaty. In a statement published on Telegram on December 18, 2022, FMA accused Kozachkov of taking bribes from an organised crime group and, alongside an acquaintance of his, of receiving 52 million tenges (US$111,200) from the criminal group to obtain and publish information discrediting several of its victims, being also affiliated in his information network with an assistant of the brother of former President, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The International Sport Press Association strongly condemn this fake news and accusations related to Mikhail Kozachkov and ask for his immediate release and for a quick solution in order to solve the matter as soon as possible.
Mikhail is a notorious investigative journalist in Kazakhstan, a reporter for Vremya newspaper and author of the Telegram channel Kozachkoff offside. He mainly writes about criminal cases, and litigation, and is engaged in investigations. He has dedicated his career as a journalist for more than 20 years, 10 of which as a sports journalist and 10 as an investigative journalist. He has a degree in international journalism from the Kazakh National University named after Al-Farabi.
From the beginning of 2022 – according to information that AIPS collected – Mikhail began to experience pressure from the authorities: In April 2022, when he was invited to an informal meeting at the National Security Committee, he discovered that he was being followed and he also began to receive threats after the publication of some materials and repeatedly received notifications of an attempt to hack accounts in the mail, Telegram, and WhatsApp.
In July 2022, the situation escalated: Mikhail’s car was scratched with obscene words and his family started receiving menaces of death if Mikhail did not stop his activities as a journalist and deleted some materials. Passports and photographs of children were attached to these messages.
Mikhail also repeatedly received threats that he would be prosecuted if he did not stop publishing investigations about the work of law enforcement agencies. In return, they promised to disseminate information about his personal life.
Therefore, on December 18, 2022, officers from Kazakhstan’s Financial Monitoring Agency in the southern city of Almaty arrested Kozachkov. He was placed in 48-hour detention and two days later he has been sentenced to be taken into custody for two months.
“A POLITICAL ORDER”
According to the information from lawyers, after Kozachkov was detained, he was illegally – without lawyers – taken out for investigative actions in order to push him for cooperation and disclose his sources of gathering information, which is expressly prohibited by the Kazakhstan Media Law. Thus, he was specially placed in such conditions in order to put psychological pressure on him and obtain the necessary information.
Also, according to research by the free speech organisation, Adil Soz, Kozachkov’s arrest was a “political order, linked to his journalistic investigations.” In an official letter by the organization sent to Kazakhstan President Qasym-Zhomart Toqayev – signed by dozens of prominent Kazakh journalists, media outlets, and free speech organizations –
“The arrest of Mikhail Kozachkov, a well-known anti-corruption journalist who frequently published allegations against state officials, law enforcement agencies, and wealthy businessmen, is concerning, especially given reports of procedural and rights violations against him by the investigating body. Kazakh authorities should reveal the nature of the charges or release Kozachkov pending a transparent and impartial investigation of his case and ensure that his legal rights are fully upheld.”
IN DEFENCE OF FREEDOM
The International Sport Press Association asks for the immediate release of Mikhail Kozachkov: Values including freedom of expression, speech, movement, opinion and free dissemination of information, must always be guaranteed, in every situation, regardless of context and situation.
By releasing him, Kazakh authorities should also ensure that members of the press are not prosecuted in retaliation for their work.
AIPS will continue to monitor the situation and fight in defence of principles and rights that should always be guaranteed not only to journalists but to each individual.
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