Zamira Sydykova | 2000 Courage in Journalism Award
Res Publica, Kyrgyzstan.
One of the few women to head a newspaper in the region, she has faced a barrage of legal maneuverings designed to stifle her reporting, which has been critical of government officials. Though Kyrgyzstan’s president claims to support an open and independent media, his government has used threat of legal action to undermine independent media.
The government’s campaign to shut down Sydykova’s paper, Res Publica, began in 1993. In 1995, she was charged with slandering the president, because she wrote about his foreign bank accounts. As a result, she was banned from working as a journalist for 18 months. In 1997, she was charged with criminal libel for publishing articles alleging corruption in a state-run gold mining company. After a month in a labor camp, she was released, but was banned from working for another 18 months.
In 2000, Res Publica and Sydykova were again found guilty of libel. The resulting fines equaled the annual budget of the paper. Res Publica was forced to close for several months. Sydykova appealed for early disbursement of the $2,000 prize which accompanies the Courage in Journalism Award and paid her fine. Res Publica is again publishing.
Zamira Sydykova is the first Courage in Journalism Award winner from Kyrgyzstan.