Taalaibek Duishembiev is the director of the NEXT TV channel in Kyrgyzstan. (file photo)
BISHKEK -- The director of the NEXT television channel in Kyrgyzstan, Taalaibek Duishembiev, was handed a suspended three-year prison sentence over the airing of a controversial report related to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Birinchi Mai district court in Bishkek issued the ruling on September 21, after finding the defendant guilty of inciting interethnic hatred.
Duishembiev told RFE/RL that he continues to insist that he is innocent.
He was arrested in early March after a report on his television channel quoted the exiled former chief of the Committee for National Security (KNB) of neighboring Kazakhstan, Alnur Musaev, as saying that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan had agreed to support Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by sending troops to help Russia.
There has been no evidence of Tajik or Kyrgyz troops fighting in Ukraine since the invasion was launched in late February.
NEXT officials have insisted the report was balanced as it quoted Musaev directly while giving other people's views on the issue.
The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry has rejected the report and has called on local media outlets to base their reporting on the ongoing war in Ukraine solely on official government statements.
Domestic and international human rights organizations had demanded Duishembiev's release, saying that his arrest violated freedom of expression.