New York, February 13, 2018--Kyrgyz authorities should immediately drop all charges against freelance journalist Elnura Alkanova, lift her travel ban, and allow her to report without fear of reprisal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Alkanova was charged today with seeking and disclosing confidential commercial information and put under a travel ban following the publication last fall of investigative reports on the allegedly corrupt sale of government property near the capital Bishkek, the independent online news site 24.kg reported.
Speaking to CPJ today, the journalist denied the charges and said she collected information from open source material. If found guilty, Alkanova faces up to five years in prison, according to the independent regional news site Fergana.
"The charges against journalist Elnura Alkanova are apparently politically motivated and in retaliation for her investigative reports," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "We call on the Kyrgyz authorities to drop the case against Alkanova, stop harassing her, and allow her to do her work without fear of reprisal."
When contacted by CPJ today via phone, the senior investigator in the case who identified himself only by his last name, Omorkulov, said he "cannot give any comments either over the phone or in a written form."
In recent weeks, police interrogated Alkanova several times about her reporting and requested that she reveal her sources and identify her reporting team, including her cameraman and others, Alkanova told CPJ. She also said that the police threatened her with prosecution for giving false information to the police--a criminal offence in Kyrgyzstan--if she does not reveal her sources. During the interrogation, Alkanova was also given a print-out of her phone calls and asked questions about her contacts with her sources, the journalist said.
Kyrgyz police first summoned Alkanova for questioning in December 2017 after her investigative reports on alleged corruption in the sale of government property were published by Fergana in October and November 2017.
Alkanova is an award-winning investigative journalist who has published several reports with the Sarajevo-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and worked for the U.S. Congress- funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). She has also contributed to the independent online news sites Kloop and Fergana.