Freedom House Calls on Kyrgyz Government to Loosen Controls on Media


The decision by Kyrgyz authorities last week to block broadcasting and internet access to U.S. government-funded news services underscores a growing concern for freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan, according to Freedom House.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) affiliate television station, “Echo of Manas” halted RFE/RL programming Wednesday after the Kyrgyz government threatened to terminate its broadcast license. Also forced to halt programming were four RFE/RL radio affiliates and two non-U.S. news web-sites, and  Once considered a regional leader on issues of freedom of expression, the Kyrgyz government has begun putting pressure on independent media organizations, leading to increased self-censorship according to Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties. The country was downgraded from Partly Free to Not Free in this year’s survey.
“Kyrgyzstan once set the standard for tolerance, expression and democratic process in Central Asia,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. “We call on the Kyrgyz government to re-affirm its commitment to that standard by allowing citizens access to the free flow of information to which they are entitled.”
Reports by Freedom House, the U.S. Department of State and other human rights groups also show a disturbing increase in violence against journalists in 2009 and early 2010, including the murders of at least three journalists and the intimidation of many others. These incidents and recent broadcast and internet blockages reflect a worsening trend that demands action by the Kyrgyz government. Positive steps would include a swift repeal of criminal libel statutes and bringing to justice those who threaten and attack journalists.
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Kyrgyzstan is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2009.
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