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A Kazakh court has suspended the 18-month prison sentence of a prominent journalist jailed on libel charges.

The Almaty Court of Appeals also ruled on July 12 that Guzyal Baidalinova should be immediately released from prison but won’t be allowed to leave the city.

Baidalinova, the owner and editor of the Nakanune.kz online news portal, was found guilty of publishing false information about one of Kazakhstan's largest banks, Kazkommertsbank.

Baidalinova pleaded partially guilty during her trial in May.

She was arrested in December after Kazkommertsbank filed a lawsuit against her, accusing her of publishing a series of reports with false data intended to damage the financial institution's reputation.

Nakanune.kz is known for its independence and critical reporting of local authorities.

The Kazakh government has harshly cracked down on independent media outlets and its journalists in recent years.

Shortly after Baidalinova’s sentencing in May, she won the Liberty, an annual award established by Kazakh opposition groups in 2003.

The award is given to journalists, writers, artists, and activists for their contribution to democratic institutions in the country.

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    RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

    RFE/RL's Radio Azattyq has been an important source of information for people in Kazakhstan for decades. In 2009, Azattyq won the prestigious 2009 Online Journalism Award for "standing in defense of citizen’s rights to seek and receive information."

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