The Kyrgyz flag in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in September 2017. Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev dropped defamation charges he pressed last year against independent news website Zanoza and two of its journalists, according to reports. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov)

CPJ welcomes positive development in Kyrgyzstan, calls for Askarov's release

May 18, 2018 4:48 PM ET

New York, May 18, 2018--The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev's decision to drop defamation charges he pressed last year against independent news website Zanoza and its journalists Naryn Idinov and Dina Maslova, and urged the country's new administration to release Azimjon Askarov, a Kyrgyz journalist jailed since 2010.

"Former President Almazbek Atambayev was right to drop defamation charges against Zanoza and its journalists Dina Maslova and Naryn Idinov, who should not have been prosecuted in the first place," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "We call on the new Kyrgyz leadership to build on this progress for press freedom in the country by finally righting the grave injustice of Azimjon Askarov's continued imprisonment."

Atambayev said he based his decision on "the positive changes" in Kyrgyzstan's media environment, according to an official statement published on the website of the ruling Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, which Atambayev currently heads.

A CPJ International Press Freedom Award recipient, Askarov was sentenced to life in prison on retaliatory charges for his reporting on human rights violations during the 2010 deadly ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan. The U.N. Human Rights Committee has called for his release. CPJ has been advocating for Askarov's release for years, most recently through the global #FreeThePress campaign.

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