A Kyrgyz court is holding four separate trials against the independent news website zanoza.kg, which is accused of insulting President Almazbek Atambaev.
The three hearings began in Bishkek’s Oktyabr district court on June 29 and were adjourned until the following day. A fourth hearing against zanoza.kg is expected to begin on June 30 in a separate district court in the Kyrgyz capital.
The Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General's Office filed five complaints earlier this year accusing zanoza.kg and journalist Naryn Ayiyp of insulting the president in articles published on the news website between October 2015 and March 2017.
Ayiyp says the charges are politically motivated.
Prosecutors are demanding moral compensation of 27 million Kyrgyz soms ($392,000) from the independent media organization ProMedia that publishes zanoza.kg and from the journalist.
In March, Kyrgyz courts ordered to freeze ProMedia’s bank accounts and put a lien on Ayiyp’s Bishkek apartment. The journalist is also under a travel ban.
The New York-based media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Kyrgyzstan to drop the charges against the news website and the journalist.
Earlier this year, the Prosecutor-General's Office filed defamation lawsuits against RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service after Atambaev accused it of slander over its reports about allegations made by the opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party following the arrest of its leader, Omurbek Tekebaev, in late February.
The lawsuits were later withdrawn at Atambaev’s request.