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Kyrgyzstan31 January 2003

Independent newspaper threatened with closure

A court has ordered the seizure of property of the opposition daily Moya Stolitsa, which has regularly denounced corruption by the country’s politicians, and the freezing of its bank accounts because of the prospect of huge libel damages against it of up to 300,000 euros.

"The enormous amount being claimed threatens the survival of the paper," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter today to the president of the Bishkek appeals court, Rahimberdy Saliev. "We ask you to put an end to these financial pressures whose only aim is to censor all independent news in the country."

The Lenin court in Bishkek acted on 20 January after the filing of several libel suits against the paper by associates of President Askar Akayev, including Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev.

Moya Stolitsa has been under constant pressure from the authorities for several years. Last year, the state monopoly printing firm Uchkun several times refused to print the paper for bogus reasons when it contained articles about high-level corruption.

On 17 January this year, Alexandra Chernykh, a Moya Stolitsa journalist, was physically attacked by two thugs. Her mother, Rina Prizhivoit, chief of the paper’s political desk, is well-known for her investigations of corruption, including cases involving President Akayev’s family.

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