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Stockholm, February 12, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists is appalled by a Kyrgyzstan court decision on Friday to shutter Kloop Media, a nonprofit that runs the country’s leading investigative news website Kloop.

“After last month’s mass arrest of journalists linked to anti-corruption outlet Temirov Live, the forced closure of Kloop—one of the most respected media outlets not just in Kyrgyzstan but in the whole of Central Asia—signals Kyrgyz authorities’ intent to wipe out an investigative reporting hub that has previously set the country apart from its authoritarian neighbors,” Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in New York on Monday. “Authorities in Kyrgyzstan should allow Kloop to remain open, reverse their escalating campaign against the press, and allow independent media to work freely.”

On February 9, Oktyabrsky District Court in the capital, Bishkek, granted an application by the city’s prosecutor to shutter Kloop Media on the grounds that the organization’s charter does not cover journalistic activity, according to news reports.

Prosecutors also cited expert assessments commissioned by the court and Kyrgyzstan’s state security services alleging that Kloop’s reporting contained “harsh criticism” of the authorities and that its “purely negative” coverage was demoralizing the public and causing “psychological disorders,” “sexual anomalies,” drug addiction, and “suicidal disposition” among the population.

Kloop’s chief editor, Anna Kapushenko, told CPJ that the outlet rejected the claims and planned to continue operating pending appeal.

Kloop, a partner of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project global investigative network, frequently publishes investigative and fact-checking articles critical of Kyrgyz authorities.

On August 22, prosecutors applied to the courts to shutter the outlet on the same day that Kloop published an investigation alleging relatives of senior officials including President Sadyr Japarov were involved in the construction of a soccer academy in Kyrgyzstan franchised by the Spanish soccer club Barcelona.

In September, authorities initiated a block on the outlet’s website days before the publication of another investigation into the president’s family.

In recent months, Kyrgyz authorities have launched an unprecedented crackdown on independent reporting in a country previously seen as a regional haven for the free press.

In January, police arrested 11 current and former staff of the investigative outlet Temirov Live, after deporting its Kyrgyzstan-born founder Bolot Temirov, and security services raided and brought a criminal case against privately owned news agency 24.kg.

Last year, authorities blocked Radio Azattyk, the local service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) for eight months, and ordered it to shutter, until the outlet removed a report about border clashes from its websites.

Source of original article: Committee to Protect Journalists (cpj.org).
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