Kyrgyzstan Court Shuts Down OCCRP Member Center Kloop

A Bishkek court ordered late on Friday the Public Foundation Kloop Media, which operates Kyrgyzstan’s leading investigative journalism outlet Kloop, to be liquidated for not having a journalism license and for upsetting the population with its reports about corruption in the country.

Kloop court hearings on 9-th of Feb. Source KloopKloop court hearings on Feb. 9; Source: KloopKloop began publishing investigations in 2010 when a group of its teenage journalists uncovered how the son of the Kyrgyz president gained illegal financial control over the country's largest telecommunications operator. 

In 2017, Kloop published a series of stories about presidential election fraud in Kyrgyzstan, recognized by the Global Investigative Journalism Network as one of the best investigations of the year in the former USSR. 

However, experts invited by the court to testify say that these and other stories have contributed to a bad mood and even nervous breakdowns among the population. 

According to Jenishbek Aralbaev, a psychiatrist whom prosecutors invited to testify during a previous hearing on February 5, people with sleep disorders, irritability, and a short temper have been admitted to the hospital to be treated for neurosis - all because of Kloop. 

Aralbaev explained to the court that Kloop had provided details in their stories that had upset his patients but that he himself would not know the specifics as he read the articles only superficially. 

The psychiatrist was not able to answer the questions Kloop’s attorneys asked, such as to give concrete examples of whose mental breakdown the outlet had caused or perhaps show the court some medical records. In the end, the doctor agreed that his conclusion was unsubstantiated and did not meet the methodological requirements.

At Friday’s hearing, three other psychiatrists supported Aralbaev’s claims about the mental breakdowns. 

According to Janna Karaeva, “Kloop” does not show “civic responsibility,” and because of this, the number of people with mental disorders in Kyrgyzstan is growing. 

At the defense's request, she also failed to provide data for her claims and explained that she did not use any methodology in her examination but expressed her opinion based on her own 25 years of experience. 

Kloop’s lawyer Nurbek Sydykov noted afterward that the Friday ruling was passed even though one expert did not appear for the third time, and the others have not provided any proof for their claims. Apart from that, the court passed its ruling after working hours - after 9 p.m. 

“You yourself saw today that the experts were unable to answer numerous questions, and these questions were born because the examination itself was so incompetent, unscientific,” Kloop’s other lawyer, Akmat Alagushev, told reporters afterward. 

The Prosecutor’s office filed the lawsuit against Kloop last August, claiming that the organization was involved in “activities that exceed the scope provided for by its charter.” 

Kloop’s charter says that the organization is “providing youth and other representatives of civil society with an information platform for the free expression of their opinions on socio-political and economic processes.” 

Prosecutors claim that “dissemination of information” is not explicitly stated, implying that the organization lacks a journalism license. 

Other than that, most of the document the prosecutors have submitted to the court is devoted to a completely different topic – the allegedly negative impact of Kloop’s publications on Kyrgyzstan.

Although the mass media in Kyrgyzstan experienced greater freedom compared to neighboring countries in the region, the country has seen a recent erosion of that freedom. 

“The authorities’ unrelenting repression of freedom of speech and expression, including the targeting of journalists and government critics, and the crackdown on peaceful protest risks canceling out the positive strides that have been made on human rights in Kyrgyzstan in the last few decades,” Amnesty International said in September, after Kloop was sued. 

Kloop’s lawyers said they will appeal this ruling.