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Kyrgyzstan shuts down prominent news outlet

FILE PHOTO: Honour guards march near the renewed Kyrgyz national flag during a ceremony in Bishkek

BISHKEK (Reuters) - A court in Kyrgyzstan has ruled to dissolve a non-governmental organisation that ran a popular news website often critical of the government.

The court order late on Friday to shut down Kloop.kg follows raids on several other media outlets and arrests of their reporters, which Western governments have criticised as a crackdown on independent media.

Kloop.kg's troubles began last August when state prosecutors filed a lawsuit to have it shut down on the grounds that Kloop Media, its NGO publisher, was not registered as a media organisation.

Prosecutors also pointed out that many of the outlet's publications were critical of the government, saying they discredited the authorities of the Central Asian nation.

The court said that Kloop Media was carrying out activities that were outside of its charter.

"The court ruling on Kloop is another nail in the coffin of media freedom in Kyrgyzstan," Anna Kapushenko, the editor-in-chief of Kloop.kg's Russian-language version, told Reuters.

The group said it would appeal the ruling.

Media in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, have long enjoyed greater freedoms than those in other Central Asian countries with more autocratic governments.

However, under President Sadyr Japarov, who came to power in 2020, the country adopted a law making it illegal for media and individuals to "discredit" the authorities, giving the government a tool to go after its critics.

Kyrgyzstan is closely allied with Russia and hosts a Russian military airbase.

(Reporting by Aigerim Turgunbaeva; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Clelia Oziel)