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CPJ urges to end crackdown on independent press in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz authorities should drop criminal investigations into news website 24.kg and investigative outlet Temirov Live, release all detained current and former members of Temirov Live, and end their crackdown on the independent press, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.

As the organization says in the statement, press freedom has sharply deteriorated in Kyrgyzstan over the past two years amid a series of legal attacks on independent media.

«Having already cracked down on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Kloop, Kyrgyz authorities are now renewing their assault on key independent media by turning their sights on respected news website 24.kg and once again targeting award-winning anti-corruption journalist Bolot Temirov’s outlet, Temirov Live. Reports that authorities confiscated all the outlets’ equipment on such highly dubious grounds, gaining access to confidential sources, are deeply concerning,» said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.

Kyrgyz authorities should drop all investigations into 24.kg and Temirov Live, release all detained current and former members of Temirov Live, and end their repression of the independent press.

Gulnoza Said

Propaganda of war is punishable by a fine or up to five years in prison, according to Article 407 of Kyrgyzstan’s Criminal Code. Calling for mass unrest is punishable by between five and eight years in prison under Article 278, Part 3, of the Criminal Code.

Employees of the State Committee for National Security also came to the office of 24.kg news agency on January 16 at about 11 a.m. General Director Asel Otorbaeva, Editors-in-Chief Anton Lymar and Makhinur Niyazova were taken for interrogation.

Equipment and personal mobile phones of employees were confiscated.

The SCNS said that the search at 24.kg news agency was conducted as part of a criminal case under the article «Propaganda of War» of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic.

In addition, on January 16, the office of Temirov Live was searched and editorial equipment was confiscated. The police searched homes and detained 11 current and former employees of the media outlet.

Shortly after the searches began, the Interior Ministry issued a statement announcing that, as a result of «forensic linguistic examination» of content found on the social media pages of Temirov Live and Ait Ait Dese on December 30, criminal proceedings had been initiated against them under article 278, part 3 of the Criminal Code for «calling for riots.»