16 November 2011

Media owners sentenced in absentia to whopping 20 and 14 years

Two former media owners, Khalil Khudaiberdiyev of Osh TV and Dzhavlon Mirzakhodzhayev of Mezon TV, were found guilty in absentia of incitement to ethnic hatred on 28 October, after fleeing their country in 2010, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports.

Khudaiberdiyev was sentenced to 20 years in jail and Mirzakhodzhayev to 14 for crimes that CPJ research and interviews found to be fabricated, in an attempt to discredit their journalism and bar them from returning to Kyrgyzstan.

Both of the media owners' stations aired footage of a protest rally against previous president Kurmanbek Bakiyev in the spring of 2010. Authorities blamed the coverage for a wave of ethnic violence that took place in June that year, despite the fact that Uzbek leaders at the rally were seen calling on protestors to abstain from violence and support the transitional government.

The ethnic violence caused Mezon TV to close in 2010 over safety concerns, CPJ reports. Osh TV has meanwhile come under new ownership that has ended all Uzbek-language programming and passed policies ensuring regional authorities are no longer criticised, according to CPJ.

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