Kyrgyzstan: officials impound TV station property owned by opposition politician

BISHKEK (TCA) — Court officers in Kyrgyzstan have raided the independent television station NTS, which is owned by opposition politician and former presidential candidate Omurbek Babanov, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

NTS said court executors and police officers arrived in the afternoon on December 19 with what they said was a court ruling allowing them to impound the station’s property.

Police cordoned off the area around the building in the capital, Bishkek, where the TV station is based and were not allowing people to enter.

Video on the station’s Facebook page showed police officials inside the station explaining the situation to employees, several of whom were arguing with them.

“We are still researching the document issued by the interdistrict court in Bishkek, which says all our properties, assets, equipment, and everything else must be seized,” NTS TV Director-General Jainak Usen said at a news conference.

“We asked for time until 11 a.m. on Wednesday [December 20]. Right now we can say openly that it is a very clear attempt to attack press freedom and to shut down the leading independent TV channel in Kyrgyzstan,” he added.

NTS TV, which broadcasts countrywide and is the largest private TV station in Kyrgyzstan, remained on the air during the incident and court officials said they were present to calculate and register all property and equipment at the station and did not intend to interrupt broadcasting.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office, the Interior Ministry, and the State Committee for National Security told RFE/RL they had no information about NTS’s property being impounded.

Supreme Court officials told RFE/RL they were seeking to find the reason for the actions taken at the TV station.

Usen said that Grexton Capital Ltd and Ayant LLC were the applicants of the seizure application, and that before the December 19 action, “we did not receive any claims from the two companies, either in the form of statements of claim, or in the form of notices that there are any claims to our organization.”

“It said that the NTS is a third party,” he said. “One reason [for the seizure] is to close NTS.”

Usen said NTS will challenge the court ruling.

A spokesman for Grexton Capital told reporters that the procedures for inventorying NTS’s assets “are not intended to interfere with broadcasting at all.”

NTS is owned by Babanov, a successful businessman who finished second in the October 15 presidential election but left the country after an investigation was launched into charges he incited ethnic hatred while campaigning for the election.

Babanov’s current whereabouts is unknown.

NTS’s branch radio station, Sanjyra, went off the air in November after Kyrgyz authorities refused to extend its license.

Sergey Kwan

Sergey Kwan

Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
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Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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