The civil sector’s statement on trials against media and journalists

 

The Civil Sector Appeals to the Country Leadership on Trials against Media

The civil sector’s statement on trials against media and journalists

 

The Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court has satisfied in full the unprecedented multi-million lawsuits initiated by the prosecutor general in defense of honor and dignity of the ex-president Almazbek Atambaev against the founders of the Zanoza.kg news website, the website itself, and other defendants. The proceedings were marked with significant procedural irregularities, lack of pretrial dispute resolution, and infringed right of defendants to adversarial trial. Court sessions were completed within the shortest time possible. Nevertheless, the judgments final and without appeal.

Although Almazbek Atambaev is no longer the president, enforcement agents have already started the levying of execution of judgments requiring the founders of Zanoza.kg Narynbek Idinov and Dina Maslova as well as the website itself (run by ProMedia Public Foundation) to pay 27 million Kyrgyz soms (equivalent to about 338 thousand US dollars) in total, and also claiming 3 million soms (over 43 thousand US dollars) from Cholpon Jakupova, a former MP, director of Adilet Legal Clinic.

According to expert estimates, annual online advertisement market volume amounts to about 1 million US dollars in the Kyrgyz Republic. So, one online media outlet is required to pay 40 per cent of the total market volume in the segment within a month. The claim of amounts which the defendants are certainly unable to pay contradicts to elementary human logic and is a direct evidence of persecution.

The situation where small media are forced to close down due to lawsuits by government and officials damages significantly the freedom of speech in the long term, increases self-censorship in media, weakens the role of media in communicating socially significant information to citizens and leads to overall socioeconomic and political decaying.

Human rights, media and international organizations have many times contended that disproportionate moral damage claimed from media contradict to the concept of freedom of expression vested in the Constitution, as well as to international agreements ratified by our country. Media may not be held so unjustifiably liable for their professional activities.

Moral damage should be proportionate. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has qualified the excessive compensation imposed by court as an illicit restriction of freedom of speech.

The level of freedom of speech existing in our country is a key indicator of a democratic state. A country where freedom of speech is illicitly restricted may not call itself a democracy.

Thus, the judgments mentioned above damage the Kyrgyzstan’s image of a democratic state and, as a result, hit the country’s investment prospects and jeopardize prospects of stable economic and social development. Implementation of the government’s newly announced program Taza Coom can hardly be imagined without free media and support from the donor community that thoroughly monitors the situation, particularly with freedom of speech.

We, the undersigned, hope that the president of the Kyrgyz Republic Sooronbai Jenbekov, prime-minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Sapar Isakov, speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic Dastanbek Jumabekov, and chair of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic Ainash Tokbaeva will take an unbiased look at potential risks and carry out a judicial reform so that such unjust judgments against independent media and journalists can no longer be passed. We also request the country leadership to find ways to resolve this unfair situation.

Organizations undersigned:

  1. International organization Reporters Sans Frontieres.
  2. Public Foundation Media Policy Institute.
  3. Public Union Journalists.
  4. Public Foundation Independent Union of Journalists of the Kyrgyz Republic.
  5. Soros Foundation – Kyrgyzstan.
  6. Internews – Kyrgyzstan.
  7. Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society.
  8. Public Foundation Center for Media Development.
  9. MediaConsult Foundation.
  10. Adilet Legal Clinic.
  11. Public Foundation ProMedia Plus.
  12. Public Foundation Civil Engagement.
  13. Public Foundation “Nashe Pravo” (Our Right).
  14. Next TV channel.
  15. Public Foundation Urban Talks.
  16. Predprinimatel LLC.
  17. Govori.TV multimedia news agency.
  18. Public Union Constitutional Policy Institute.
  19. Civil Union for Reforms and Result.
  20. Agency for Social Technologies.
  21. Kylym Shamy Human Rights Center.
  22. National Network for Protection of Rights of People with Disabilities.
  23. Public Foundation Legal Prosperity.
  24. Bishkek Business Club.
  25. Public Charity “Ruki Dobra” (Hands of the Good).
  26. Union of Photojournalists, a public union; Union of Photographers of Kyrgyzstan, a public foundation.
  27. Bicycle Community Public Union.
  28. Public Foundation Promotank Research Institute.
  29. Public Foundation Archa Initiative.
  30. Public Foundation “Ruka v Ruke” (Hand in Hand).
  31. Public Union Social Analysis Institute.
  32. Public Foundation Women’s Forum Kurak.
  33. Public Union Mental Health and Society.
  34. Police Asia Analytical Center.
  35. Public Union School of Law.
  36. Public Foundation Voice of Freedom.
  37. Foundation for Democracy Support, a public foundation.
  38. International Foundation Initiatives of Roza Otunbaeva.
  39. Lawyers for Human Rights, a public foundation.
  40. Coalition against Torture in Kyrgyzstan.
  41. Committee for Protection of Freedom of Speech.

The Kaktus.media readers also support the initiative:

***

“I also undersign for freedom of speech”, - Islam Gurba wrote.

***

“As a citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic, I FULLY support the civil sector appeal regarding trials against media and journalists. I admire the courage and professional level of journalists and human rights activists who continue protecting democratic values in spite of significant pressure.

I am strongly convinced that a rule-of-law state cannot be built in our country without a Real Judicial Reform, and we need Freedom of Speech as Air. With deepest respect, Gulnara Bekbolinova-Dryer.

***

“I support your appeal. Yes, I also think that such judgments are against any logic in their claimed amounts and only pursue the goal of censorship using financial leverages. I am ready to undersign your appeal on behalf of Audit.kg LLC”, - Shamil Abdurashidov wrote.

***

“We closely monitor trials against media and journalists in Kyrgyzstan. We believe the recent judgment of the Supreme Court a precedent posing a threat to freedom of speech”, - noted representatives of Reporters Sans Frontieres”.

If you support this appeal and are ready to sign it, e-mail at zanoza.kg@gmail.com or call 0312 62 07 60.

 

Share