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Attacks Against Kyrgyz Media and Human Rights Defenders Must Stop
Freedom House today expressed deep concern over an increase in attacks against human rights defenders and independent media in Kyrgyzstan.
"The Kyrgyz government must immediately investigate assaults against human rights activists and initiate legislative changes to ensure a free and independent press," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor, who will arrive in Kyrgyzstan on June 5 for a series of high-level meetings to discuss the country's human rights situation.
Her visit comes in the wake of several recent attacks against human rights defenders.
On May 3, Dmitri Kabak, a human rights activist with the nongovernmental organization Frank Position, reported that he was assaulted by an unknown assailant who struck him in the head, causing a concussion. The attack, which occurred in daylight on a busy street in Bishkek, took place the day before Mr. Kabak was to leave for a human rights training session in Sweden and followed statements made by Mr. Kabak in support of other human rights defenders.
On May 8, Natalya Ablova, director of the NGO Bureau of Human Rights and Rule of Law, reported receiving a telephone call from an officer with the Kyrgyz National Security Service who threatened to blow up her house.
The government has also charged Galina Kaissarova, an independent advocate and human rights defender, with libel and defamation and has taken action to revoke her law license.
Freedom House is also concerned about Tynchtybek Duulatov, a member of the opposition Ar-Namys party, who was summoned on April 30 to report to the police but never returned home. Mr. Duulatov reported on irregularities and fraud during Kyrgyzstan's constitutional referendum in February.
Recent press freedom violations include numerous lawsuits against newspapers filed by government officials. The independent Moya Stolitsa was ordered to pay heavy fines for "moral damages and insulting the honor and dignity" of the minister of interior and the prime minister.
The independent newspaper Delo Nomer is facing bankruptcy as a result of government- initiated lawsuits, for violating the "honor and dignity" of officials.
Freedom House's latest annual surveys, Freedom in the World, Freedom of the Press, and Nations in Transit, reveal that while the government of Kyrgyzstan has made relative progress toward economic liberalization, democratic reform has stagnated.
"The government of Kyrgyzstan must take immediate steps to investigate cases of assaults and threats against human rights defenders and to present the results to the public and the international community," Ms. Windsor said. "Freedom House calls on the government to impose a moratorium on civil lawsuits against journalists and media outlets and to initiate new legislation to guarantee free and independent press," she said.
Throughout the region, most improvements documented this year were confined to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. With the exception of the Baltic region, the majority of countries in the former Soviet Union continued to lag behind.
The Kyrgyzstan reports are available at:
In response to efforts to limit press freedom, Freedom House initiated a project in July 2002 for the establishment of an independent printing press in Kyrgyzstan and the registration of the Media Support Center Foundation (MSCF), which will house and operate the printing press. The MSCF will print newspapers, paperback books and other publications at reasonable prices and will also conduct training sessions for individuals in the Kyrgyz media community.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.