Independent Media Under Attack in Kyrgyzstan as Court Shuts Down OCCRP Member Center Kloop Media

Published: 14 February 2024

comms-kyrgz2A few of the major investigations OCCRP and Kloop have collaborated on. (Image credits: James O'Brien / NEXT TV /, Svetlana Tiourina)


Amid a widening crackdown on the free press in Kyrgyzstan, a local court on Friday ordered OCCRP’s award-winning local member center Kloop Media to be shut down.

The purported reason for the order was that Kloop was practicing journalism without a license. Prosecutors also presented testimony from psychiatrists who accused the media outlet of “affecting people’s mental health” by “upsetting” them with negative information.

OCCRP will continue to support Kloop and make sure it can continue its important journalistic work as it fights the ruling — which OCCRP Publisher Drew Sullivan called “ludicrous.”

“Citing damage to people’s mental health as evidence for shutting down independent media is a bizarre new low for a government — even in these brutal reporting conditions we’re operating in around the world,” Sullivan said.

“Autocracy damages people's mental health. Truth sets people free.”

Kloop Media operates, an investigative reporting outlet that has done unprecedented work to expose organized crime and corruption in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. Kloop has been an OCCRP reporting partner since 2017 and was OCCRP’s first member center in Central Asia, a region with little tradition of investigative reporting.

“Kloop started with brave teenage journalists who broke the story of how the Kyrgyz president’s family had financial control over the telecommunications industry,” said OCCRP Editor in Chief Miranda Patrucic. “Think about that: teenagers taking on corrupt practices in a powerful government. They wanted a better future for Kyrgyzstan then and continue to push for it now through truthful journalism.”

“Governments don’t get to choose what information is disseminated,” said Patrucic.

The prosecutor’s office filed a lawsuit against Kloop last August, claiming that “dissemination of information” is not explicitly stated in Kloop's charter and that the organization was involved in “activities that exceed the scope provided for by its charter.” Kloop made several changes to its charter as a result.

The court order to shut down Kloop follows a series of raids on other Kyrgyz media outlets. In January, Kyrgyzstan arrested 11 journalists who are current and former collaborators of OCCRP partner Temirov Live. The outlet’s founder, investigative journalist Bolot Temirov, had already been targeted by the government and was deported in 2022  after being arrested on trumped-up charges of drug possession. OCCRP investigated the circumstances surrounding his arrest and the court case against him. Earlier this month, the Bishkek City Court rejected the appeals of all the journalists and ruled that they were to remain in pretrial detention.

Space for free expression in Kyrgyzstan has been shrinking rapidly since President Sadyr Japarov came to power in 2020. The country has adopted a series of laws making it almost impossible to criticize the government, including one that criminalizes "discrediting" the authorities. The country is in the process of adopting additional laws to regulate the media and NGOs, including a Russian-style "foreign agent law."

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