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Human Rights Watch: Prosecutor General should drop lawsuit against Zanoza

The Prosecutor General should drop the lawsuit against Cholpon Dzhakupova, the rights defender, Zanoza news outlet, and the journalists Dina Maslova and Narynbek Idinov, and take immediate steps to lift travel bans imposed on the three individuals. Statement of the human rights organization Human Rights Watch says.

As the organization says, these lawsuits on behalf of President Almazbek Atambayev are unjustified.

«Penalizing people who express or publish critical comments about the president violates free speech protections, and creates a broader chilling effect on expression in Kyrgyzstan," said Mihra Rittmann, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. «The restrictions imposed on Dzhakupova, Maslova, and Idinov should be lifted immediately so that they are free to continue their important work without interference.»

During March and April, 2017, the Prosecutor General brought five lawsuits targeting media outlets that have been critical of the government for allegedly discrediting the honor and dignity of the president and spreading false information. The Zanoza news agency, of which Maslova is editor-in-chief and Idinov its founder, was one. Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyz branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, like Zanoza, has also been accused of «biased coverage of unchecked, false information that deliberately affected the honor and dignity of the head of state.»

The Prosecutor’s Office should end its repeat attempts to muzzle voices critical of Kyrgyzstan’s top leader

Mihra Rittmann

«Kyrgyz authorities should guarantee the right to freedom of expression, which means protecting — not prosecuting — journalists and rights defenders for expressing or publishing critical views," she believes.