June 22, 2000
His Excellency Askar Akayev
President of Kyrgyzstan
Via Fax: 011-7-3312-218627
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly disturbed by the fact that an independent journalist in your country has been jailed for insulting a judge.
On June 19, a Jalal-Abad city court sentenced Moldosali Ibraimov, a reporter with the independent regional weekly Akyikat, to two years imprisonment for criminal defamation. He was also fined 100,000 soms (US$1,230); a similar fine was imposed on Akyikat, according to local news reports and CPJ sources in Bishkek. He is currently in jail pending an appeal.
Ibraimov was prosecuted over an article titled “Did the Judge Commit a Crime?” that he published in Akyikat during the first week of April, 2000. In the article, Ibraimov discussed a recent legal dispute between two rival parliamentary candidates. The judge who heard the case, Toktosun Kasymbekov, was rumored to have accepted a US$15,000 bribe to rule in one candidate’s favor.
In May, Judge Kasymbekov sued Ibraimov for libel under Article 127, Clause 2 of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic. Under this clause, persons found guilty of defamation may be fined, but not imprisoned. The ruling would thus appear to violate Kyrgyz law along with international standards for a free press.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists devoted to defending press freedom around the world, CPJ believes that civil penalties provide adequate redress for defamation, and that no journalist should ever be jailed for what he writes. We urge you to investigate this unjust and disproportionate ruling, and to ensure that Ibraimov’s appeal receives a fair hearing.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your comments.
Ann K. Cooper