The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Kyrgyz authorities to drop all charges against a journalist accused of seeking and disclosing confidential commercial information.
Elnura Alkanova was charged on February 13 following the publication late last year of an investigative report about the sale of government property in the capital, Bishkek.
Alkanova, who was also put under a travel ban, denied the charges and said she had collected information from open-source material.
If found guilty, she faces up to five years in prison.
In a statement, CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said the charges were “apparently politically motivated and in retaliation for her investigative reports."
Ognianova called on the authorities to “drop the case against Alkanova, stop harassing her, and allow her to do her work without fear of reprisal."
In December, the State Service to Fight Economic Crimes (EKKKMK) began investigating a report by Alkanova that suggested a company with potential links to relatives of Prime Minister Sapar Isakov purchased a compound of 48 luxury homes in Bishkek.
The compound used to belong to relatives of ex-President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was ousted by protests in 2010. The state took over the property after Bakiev fled the country.
After Alkanova's report was published in November, the Prosecutor-General's Office launched an investigation into the purchase, and the probe is still under way.
However, BTA Bank complained to EKKKMK that bank documents containing "commercial secrets" were used in Alkanova's report, and the journalist was ordered not to leave Kyrgyzstan.
The Kyrgyz government then asked Alkanova's employer, Moscow-based online news agency Fergana.ru, to publicly retract her report and apologize. Fergana.ru refused to do so.
The Bishkek-based Committee to Defend the Freedom of Speech has accused the Kyrgyz authorities of violating Alkanova's rights as a journalist.