Journalists should be free to report without fear or favour. But right now rich and powerful people are trying to sue us into silence.
Kazakhstan’s notorious president for three decades, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is regarded as a longtime ally of Vladimir Putin. His regime has been accused of sickening human rights abuses and widespread corruption.
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and openDemocracy reported that a fund set up by Nazarbayev was at the head of a network of corporate vehicles that held billions in assets through a UK-registered company.
Now the Nazarbayev Fund and that UK holding company have issued defamation proceedings – better known as a libel lawsuit – against the Bureau and openDemocracy.
They strongly dispute our reporting but, essentially, they are suing us both just for doing our job.
We believe this lawsuit is about organisations connected to powerful people using the law to silence legitimate accountability journalism. This type of case, which we consider a SLAPP - a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation - is about those with money using their wealth to stop journalists from reporting on matters of public interest.
Essentially it’s about power and money rather than truth and transparency.
We pride ourselves on a commitment to public interest journalism and stand by our reporting. That’s why we are taking the unusual step of going public with this attack on us.
Your money would help us in our fight in more ways than one. Both the Bureau and openDemocracy are lucky in that we have other avenues of support to help us with our legal costs – but even with those, we have between us already racked up tens of thousands in legal fees at this early stage. Your money helps us cover those costs.
But legal battles are long and uncertain things – we can't be sure when we might need more money to finance it. A war chest helps us beat that uncertainty. Both of our newsrooms have also been campaigning to bring an end to SLAPP lawsuits that threaten independent, quality journalism, and your money can help us continue that fight. Finally, it can help simply by allowing us to fund the independent investigative journalism that is our core mission, as we focus our energy on winning this lawsuit.
- Gwyn Williams
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and openDemocracy