The Committee to Protect Journalists joined a coalition of 28 other international press freedom organizations to call on Kyrgyz authorities to drop defamation lawsuits and to end the practice of using disproportionate fines, travel bans and other harsh penalties to punish critical media outlets and journalists.
The joint IFEX letter called on the parliament to reject amendments proposed in the draft law "Amending the Civil Code of the Kyrgyz Republic," that would further restrict freedom of expression; and to review and amend the current "Law On Guarantees for Activity of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic," which serves as basis of defamation cases filed against journalists.
In June last year, CPJ documented how the prosecutor-general's office filed five defamation cases against the now-defunct independent online news agency Zanoza and its founders Naryn Idinov and Dina Maslova, for allegedly insulting the then-President Almazbek Atambayev. The court in July 2017 found the journalists guilty and fined them 27 million som (US$338,000) and put them under a travel ban, with a lien put on their properties. A court later rejected their appeal to pay in segments and the journalists could now face prison for nonpayment.
Freelance journalist Elnura Alkanova, who published an investigative report into alleged government corruption, is also under a travel ban after a court charged her last month with seeking and disclosing confidential commercial information, according to CPJ. Other journalists, including freelance reporter Ulugbek Babakulov, have been subject to harassment, including death threats, according CPJ.
To read the joint statement, click here.