Court decisions limit press freedom in Kyrgyzstan, watchdog says

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization that monitors the status of freedom around the world and advocates for democracy and human rights, on December 20 responded to the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan upholding a lower-level court decision to fine the founders of the independent outlet Zanoza.kg the equivalent of about $387,000 because of alleged libel against the country’s former president.

“The Supreme Court’s upholding a fine of 27 million soms against the founders of Zanoza.kg — Cholpon Dzhakupova, Naryn Ayip and Dina Maslova — effectively closes the news organization and could ruin the lives of journalists whose only ‘crime’ was to report on the country’s then president, Almazbek Atambayev,” said Marc Behrendt, director for Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The president is a public figure and is subject to journalistic inquiry. By refusing to overturn a political and unjust decision by a lower court, the country’s Supreme Court undermines the rule of law in Kyrgyzstan and allows the government to misuse the law to silence its critics.”

In the same statement Freedom House expressed its concern about the fact that Kyrgyz authorities are currently in the process of confiscating property of the country’s largest private TV station NTS, which belongs to the businessman and former presidential contender Omurbek Babanov.

Kyrgyzstan is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2017, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2017, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2017, and receives a democracy score of 6.0 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2017.

Sergey Kwan

TCA