(Berlin) – Kyrgyzstan’s General Prosecutor has brought a series of cases against two prominent local media outlets that have been critical of the government, Human Rights Watch said today.
The outlets are accused of discrediting the honor and dignity of the president and spreading false information. The actions violate standards on freedom of expression, and the authorities should promptly drop the lawsuits.
“Kyrgyzstan’s authorities should understand the role of independent media and what it means to respect freedom of expression and drop these lawsuits,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Kyrgyzstan has a dynamic media landscape, which should be allowed to flourish, and laws that allow these kinds of prosecutions should be repealed.”
The General Prosecutor’s Office filed three lawsuits – two on March 6, 2017, and one on March 13 – against Zanoza, a local online media outlet and its founder, Idinov Narynbek. The office filed two suits on March 6 against Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyz branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In both cases the suits alleged “biased coverage of unchecked, false information that deliberately affected the honor and dignity of the head of state” and requested both media outlets to pay compensation totaling 32 million soms (US$462,855). Local courts ordered the bank accounts of both outlets frozen.