Kyrgyz Prosecutor Requests the Shutdown of Independent Media Outlet Kloop

Published: 28 August 2023

Kloop BlockedThe Bishkek Prosecutor Office has urged a local court to close down Kloop. (Photo: Kloop)

By Alexandra Li, OCCRP

The Bishkek Prosecutor Office has urged a local court to close down Kloop, OCCRP’s partner in Kyrgyzstan, alleging that the news outlet lacks the proper license and has disturbed the public with its reporting.

Kloop learned on Monday that the request was submitted to the court last Tuesday. The document argues that the news outlet engaged in "activities that exceed the scope provided for by its charter."

Officially registered as a public foundation for developing journalism in Kyrgyzstan and fostering political awareness among young people through journalism, Kloop offers a platform for free expression of opinions.

In its claim, the prosecutor’s office highlights that “the dissemination of information (the functions of mass media)” is not explicitly stated in Kloop’s charter, implying that the organization lacks a journalism license.

Kloop's lawyer, Fatima Yakupbayeva, maintains that the media outlet has not violated any laws.

For online media, there's no requirement to register as mass media, which means there is no violation of the law,” she told OCCRP.

The prosecutor’s complaint also reveals that in November 2021, the National Committee for State Security (GKNB) initiated a criminal investigation against Kloop for publicly advocating the government's overthrow. During this inquiry, the GKNB ordered linguistic and psychological forensic assessments of several Kloop publications.

According to these analyses, the GKNB concluded that the selected items contained "sharp criticism of policies carried out by the current government" and had "a decidedly negative nature, aimed at discrediting representatives of state and municipal bodies."

Despite the licensing violation charge, four and a half of the five pages in the prosecutor’s complaint focus on critical reporting and alleged manipulation of public opinion against the authorities.

“The false and discrediting information disseminated by Kloop regarding the activities of state agencies causes the population to distrust state power, contributing to the growth of political instability, and the weakening and erosion of the constitutional order,” the complaint quotes an expert opinion.

The complaint was filed on the same day Kloop published its latest investigation about the involvement of the family of the head of the GKNB, Kamchybek Tashiev, in the construction of the Barcelona Football School in Kyrgyzstan alongside associates of President Sadyr Japarov.

President Japarov addressed the Kloop editors directly in an interview with Kabar, a state news agency, on Saturday.

“From the beginning, you have taken an approach to bring harm to the Kyrgyz people,” he stated. “This can’t continue. I have a request for you: if you can’t work for the benefit of Kyrgyzstan, at least do no harm.”

Kloop's editor-in-chief, Anna Kapushenko, sees the prosecutor’s request as another attempt to pressure independent media in the country and believes that the court will approve it.

“But we will continue our work, writing articles, creating content, and distributing it on social media,” she expressed.

“There are now individuals whose names are prohibited from being mentioned in connection with criticism or any negative information,” Kapushenko noted. “We see that we've become part of a series of events that form a trend. Everyone who criticizes authorities, especially Tashiev and Japarov, faces consequences,” she said.

The status of the GKNB's launched criminal investigation remains undisclosed. None of Kloop's employees have yet been summoned for questioning, and the media only learned of the case through the prosecutor’s court claim.

The court's review of the claim start date has not been announced.