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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[29.01.2OO3] Kyrgyz Authorities Freeze Accounts, Property of Prominent Opposition Newspaper After It Loses Libel Suit

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan have frozen the bank accounts and confiscated the property of an embattled prominent opposition newspaper, its editor said Wednesday.
The action against Moya Stolitsa came last week in a libel suit filed by Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev, said the newspaper's political editor Rina Przhivoit.
Moya Stolitsa has reported extensively on alleged government corruption. In the past two months it has been dogged by libel lawsuits from top officials including the interior minister, other top federal and regional officials, lawmakers and prominent businessmen.
Moya Stolitsa journalists are continuing to print the newspaper using their own savings, Przhivoit said.
Last week, Przhivoit's daughter, Alexandra Chernykh, was beaten by unknown assailants in the capital Bishkek when she was returning home, an attack that has drawn international concern.
Observers say authorities are attempting to silence free media ahead of a Sunday referendum on a new constitution that has been criticized by the opposition as a presidential power grab. President Askar Akaev has said the referendum will lead to a fairer balance of power between the president's office and parliament.
Two weeks ago, authorities confiscated the property of the only Kyrgyz-language opposition newspaper, Kyrgyz Ordo - Moya Stolitsa is in Russian - and it has since been out of print. The weekly lost a libel suit filed by a customs official but won an appeal against a court decision that it should be closed down.
"Authorities do not want our newspaper to come out until the referendum, so that we will not criticize the new draft constitution," said Kyrgyz Ordo editor Beken Nazaraliyev.
Following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan was seen as an island of democracy in Central Asia and it remains one of the most open countries in the region. However, in recent years, the government has increasingly cracked down on dissent. Last year saw the worst political violence in Kyrgyzstan when six people were killed in a clash between police and protesters.
Associated Press, January 29, 2003

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