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Bishkek court fines newspaper

(Adil Soz/PAJ, interim member/IFEX) - On 22 April 2009, Inter District Court of Bishkek Judge Elmira Baytikova ruled in favour of the Zhannat Hotel in its lawsuit against the "Uchur" independent newspaper. The newspaper's editor-in-chief, Aslanbek Sartbayev, said a lawsuit was launched by the hotel for "moral and material damages" after the paper reported that the hotel was built with blocks of slag. The hotel refuted the information.

The judge ruled in favour of the hotel and declared that the newspaper's editorial staff must pay 2 million soms (approx. US$49,000) in moral damages and 1 million soms (approx. US$24,500) in material damages.

The newspaper's staff was only informed of the lawsuit on the day court proceedings got underway. Sartbayev said the total penalty of 3 million soms is considered very high for media outlets in Kyrgyzstan. He warned that actions taken by courts can influence freedom of speech in the country.

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