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Kyrgyzstan: Lack Of Press Freedoms Criticized

By Narynbek Idionov and Anthony Wesolowsky

Prague, 20 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - An independent media monitoring group has criticized Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev for failing to uphold basic press freedoms in the Central Asia state.

In a letter sent to the Kyrgyz leader, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists expressed its "grave concern about reports of increasing harassment of the independent press in Kyrgyzstan."

It said Kyrgyz officials had closed down the "Kriminal" paper after its first issue following a ruling by the justice ministry that Kriminal had been improperly registered. The group said the paper was highly critical of the government and accused Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov of building a home on the site of a cemetery.

The media monitoring group said the government has threatened legal action against a correspondent who was given a suspended two year sentence last year for insulting Akayev in a political leaflet. The reporter, Ryspek Omurzakov, covered the trial of Topchubek Turgunaliev. The opposition leader was accused of embezzlement and sentenced to 10 years in prison this January. Kyrgyz opposition leaders and Human Rights Watch Helsinki claim the case was politically motivated. A higher court this week dismissed two of the three convictions.