18 June 2008


Police raid newspaper, confiscate computers, seal newsroom, following publication of critical letter

Incident details

Cholpon Orozobekova

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 17 June 2008 CPJ press release:

KYRGYZSTAN: Police raids newspaper, confiscates computers, seals newsroom

New York, June 17, 2008 - Police in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek raided the newsroom of independent newspaper De-Facto on June 14, taking all its financial records, confiscating computers, and sealing the newsroom, the independent regional news Web site Ferghana reported. The paper was shut down after it published a letter to Kyrgyzstan's president and other public officials that alleged official corruption.

The raid took place after the prosecutor general's office opened a criminal investigation into the paper's publication of a letter that they say was "distribution of knowingly false denunciation," Cholpon Orozobekova, De-Facto founder and editor-in-chief, told CPJ. Orozobekova has not yet been charged, but is considered a witness in a criminal case, defense lawyer Nina Zotova told CPJ. De-Facto publishes twice a week. The charge would carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

According to Ferghana, De-Facto published a letter last week by Bishkek resident Zamira Moldoyeva addressed to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Prime Minister Igor Chudinov, and Bishkek Mayor Daniyar Usenov, in which Moldoyeva accused two high state officials of bribery and corruption. The next day, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the publication of what they said were "false" accusations and obtained a search warrant, Orozobekova told CPJ.

"We denounce the shutdown of De-Facto for alleged libel and call on Kyrgyz authorities to return all seized computers and documents to the newspaper, and allow it to continue publishing," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "Criminalizing journalism and commentary results in self-censorship among journalists."

Orozobekova told CPJ the newsroom is currently paralyzed. She was questioned at length by police about the author of the letter, whom Orozobekova said she did not know. "They never explained why they took our computers and said they will not close the investigation even if we publish a refutation," Orozobekova told CPJ.

Zotova said the search warrant only authorized the seizure of financial documents.

According to independent news agency Aki-Press, Bishkek prosecutors opened an investigation on June 13 after they received a request from Taalaibek Dalbayev, head of Bishkek city fiscal agency, who claimed De-Facto published false information about him and his agency in the letter. Prosecutors claim that this preliminary investigation did not prove the allegations of corruption and believe Orozobekova was responsible for its publication, Aki-Press reported Monday.

This is the second defamation charge brought against De-Facto in the last six months. On June 2, the Pervomaisky District Court in Bishkek ruled that the newspaper insulted President Bakiyev's nephew - Asylbek Saliyev - in an earlier article that suggested Saliyev had caused a fatal car accident. The court ruled against De-Facto and fined it 1 million som (US$27,680). De-Facto is appealing the ruling.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information visit http://www.cpj.org


Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
info (@) cpj.org
Fax:+1 212 465 9568

IFEX members working in this country 2

More from Kyrgyzstan
  • Freedom on the Net 2017: Kyrgyzstan

    A social media user was handed down a one year suspended sentence under Kyrgyzstan’s ant-extremism laws for “liking” posts published by a controversial imam.

  • Freedom of the Press 2016: Kyrgyzstan

    The independence of the public broadcaster came into question on several occasions, as the outlet aired one-sided reports on the Vecherniy Bishkek dispute and faced allegations of partisan bias in coverage of the October parliamentary elections.

  • Freedom on the Net 2015: Kyrgyzstan

    Government resolution forces ISPs and MSPs to allow government real-time access to communication networks and subscribers' data