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U.S. Department of State concerned by actions taken against media in Kyrgyzstan

«The United States is deeply concerned by reports of recent actions taken by the government of the Kyrgyz Republic against independent media outlets and journalists,» the U.S. Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

As noted, these actions contribute to a pattern of government activity that appears aimed at stifling public debate and free expression.

«We encourage the Kyrgyz authorities to ensure journalists can operate without undue pressure or harassment. A free and independent press is essential for protecting human rights, maintaining effective democratic institutions, and promoting peace and security,» the statement says.

Employees of the State Committee for National Security 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.

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.»

All detainees were arrested until the end of investigation by court decision.

Makhabat Tazhibek kyzy, Sapar Akunbekov, Azamat Ishenbekov, Saipidin Sultanaliev, Aktilek Kaparov, Tynystan Asypbekov, Maksat Tazhibek uulu, Zhoodar Buzumov, Zhumabek Turdaliev, Aike Beishekeeva and Akyl Orozbekov will be kept in Bishkek pretrial detention center 1 until March 13. All of them are former or current employees of Temirov Live.