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HRW: Kyrgyz journalists were harassed by law enforcement in 2020

In 2020, journalists in Kyrgyzstan were harassed by law enforcement, and in some cases threatened with criminal sanctions for critical reporting. Annual report of the International Human Rights Organization Human Rights Watch on the human rights situation in more than 100 countries of the world says.

The report cites numerous cases of restrictions on freedom of expression, attacks on the media and restrictions on the work of journalists over the past year:

  • On January 9, unknown assailants attacked the editor-in-chief of FactCheck.kg Bolot Temirov outside his office. Police opened an investigation and arrested four suspects;
  • Some journalists were attacked, including by police, during political unrest in October;
  • Aibol Kozhomuratov, a social video producer at Current Time TV, tweeted a clip showing a law enforcement officer shooting a weapon at him while he was reporting. Other journalists were threatened and harassed by hostile individuals during and after protests;
  • Following the November 2019 exposeé on high-level corruption in Kyrgyzstan’s customs agency, published jointly by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and local media agencies Kloop and Radio Azattyk, Raimbek Matraimov, a key figure in the report, filed multi-million some defamation lawsuits against several media outlets;
  • Court in mid-December approved freezing the media outlets’ bank accounts but reversed its decision a day later following public outcry. In mid-December, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir said he was «highly concerned» about the defamation lawsuits, which are still pending court review.

The authors of the report also particularly noted adopted by the Parliament on June 25 a vague and overly broad law on «manipulating information» that allows authorities, without judicial oversight, to order the removal of information officials consider «false» or «inaccurate» from internet platforms.