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Freedom House alarmed by surge of lawsuits against media in Kyrgyzstan

In its' statement, published on the eve of the World Press Freedom Day, the international human rights organization Freedom House expressed concern about a surge of politically-motivated defamation lawsuits against independent media in Kyrgyzstan.

«We are alarmed by a surge of politically-motivated defamation lawsuits against independent media and individuals for criticizing President of Atambayev," said Marc Behrendt, director for Europe and Eurasia programs. «The government of Kyrgyzstan is directly attacking the very institutions necessary for the country’s democratic development. Freedom House urges the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to cease persecution of independent media and human rights defenders who express dissenting views.»

The statement was reportedly caused by defamation charges filed by the Prosecutor General of the Kyrgyz Republic against human rights defender Cholpon Dzhakupova and two independent media outlets.

On March 30, 2017, online media outlet Zanoza.kg published remarks by Cholpon Dzhakupova, head of the legal clinic Adilet, critical of President Atambayev, based on statements made at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Prosecutor General of the Kyrgyzstan filed defamation charges against Dzhakupova in response. On April 20, a court ordered a lien on Dzhakupova’s property and issued a travel ban. Defamation charges were also filed against the editor-in-chief of Zanoza.kg, and Pro-Media’s founder, seeking nearly $180,000 in damages.