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Kyrgyz Government Must Cease Law Suits Against Free Press
Officials in Kyrgyzstan are systematically threatening media outlets with legal action, effectively shutting down independent press in the country and leading to an overall decline in citizen access to information, Freedom House said today.
"The recent pattern of lawsuits targeted at independent newspapers in Kyrgyzstan is particularly troubling," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor, who met recently with Kyrgyz government officials. "The government must impose a moratorium on civil lawsuits against journalists and media outlets and move immediately to initiate new legislation to guarantee a free and independent press," she said.
Most political rights and civil liberties are substantially restricted in Kyrgyzstan, particularly press freedom.
According to Freedom House's Freedom of the Press 2003 survey, Kyrgyzstan's press is rated "Not Free." Freedom of the press has declined as a result of government attempts to introduce new restrictions on independent media. President Askar Akayev's administration, increasingly impatient with critics of the regime, has recently taken a number of steps to curb or control opposition media outlets.
On June 11, 2003, Alexander Kim, the Editor-in-Chief of the independent Kyrgyz newspaper Moya Stolitsa-Novosti announced that the paper was bankrupt and would be closing due to over thirty lawsuits filed against the paper over the last year-and-a-half. The paper was ordered to pay four million soms (about $95,000) in fines. At least half a million soms in damages was awarded to Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev. According to Mr. Kim, the cases were the result of articles published on corruption in the Kyrgyz government.
Other independent newspapers are also under attack. Officials with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were recently awarded damages against Obshestveni Reiting in the amount of 100,000 soms ($2,500), for an article on the Internet that described corruption in the foreign ministry. The independent newspaper Delo Nomer has reported it is facing bankruptcy as a result of government-initiated lawsuits.
Freedom House reports on Kyrgyzstan are available at:
In response to efforts to limit press freedom, Freedom House initiated a project in July 2002 for the establishment of an independent printing press in Kyrgyzstan and the registration of the Media Support Center Foundation (MSCF), which will house and operate the printing press. The MSCF will print newspapers, paperback books and other publications at reasonable prices and will also conduct training sessions for individuals in the Kyrgyz media community.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.