Partly Free
A Obstacles to Access 16 25
B Limits on Content 20 35
C Violations of User Rights 16 40
Last Year's Score & Status
53 100 Partly Free
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free). See the research methodology and report acknowledgements.

header1 Overview

Internet freedom worsened in Kyrgyzstan during the coverage period. The government enforced the Law on Protection from False Information, which was enacted during the previous coverage period, to block news sites and force online news outlets to remove content. Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyzstan service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was blocked after it posted a video depicting border clashes between the militaries of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Ministry of Culture also tried to shut down the outlet; the parties reached a settlement after the coverage period. Courts also issued prison sentences to journalists and social media users who criticized the government online and deported Bolot Temirov, a prominent investigative journalist. In a positive development, internet access continued to improve, according to some measurement sources.

After two revolutions that ousted authoritarian presidents in 2005 and 2010, Kyrgyzstan adopted a parliamentary form of government. Governing coalitions proved unstable, however, and corruption remains pervasive. Unrest surrounding the annulled 2020 parliamentary elections led to significant political upheaval and the violent repression of opponents of nationalist politician Sadyr Japarov. Major constitutional changes adopted in 2021 significantly increased presidential authority, concentrating political power in the presidency and reducing the size and role of the parliament. Both the judiciary and vigilante violence are increasingly used to suppress political opponents and civil society critics.

header2 Key Developments, June 1, 2022 - May 31, 2023

  • The government temporarily blocked independent news outlets Res Publica and for refusing to remove content after allegedly violating the Law on Protection from False Information (see B1 and B2).
  • In October 2022, the Ministry of Culture blocked Radio Azattyk’s website, and in April 2023, the Lenin District Court ruled that the outlet was no longer considered mass media, effectively preventing it from operating in the country. However, after the coverage period the Ministry of Culture and Attazyk reached a settlement, allowing the outlet to continue operating (see B1, B6, and C3).
  • In November 2022, a court ordered the deportation of Bolot Temirov to Russia because he had allegedly falsified his passport. The deportation stemmed from a January 2022 raid on TemirovLIVE, the outlet he ran, that occurred a few days after it released an investigation accusing relatives of the head of the State Committee of the National Security (SCNS) of corruption (see C3).
  • In August 2022, the parliament’s website was hacked and taken down for 24 days (see C8).

A Obstacles to Access

A1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 5.005 6.006

Score Change: The score improved from 4 to 5 because internet penetration improved in the past year, according to some measurement sources.

Internet access continues to grow in Kyrgyzstan. In 2022, the Ministry of Digital Development's Service for the Regulation and Supervision of the Communications Sector (SRSCS), formerly known as the State Communication Agency (SCA), reported there were 6.5 million active subscribers out of 7 million inhabitants. In 2021, it reported there were 5.8 million subscribers.1 However, the reliability of the SRSCS’s data on internet penetration, which comes from service providers, has been called into question by some analysts. For instance, according to February 2023 data from DataReportal, an independent internet measurement source, Kyrgyzstan’s internet penetration rate was 77.9 percent.2

In 2021, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reported Kyrgyzstan had a fixed-line broadband penetration rate of 4.4 percent and a mobile broadband penetration rate of 119.3 percent, with 92 percent of the population using the internet.3 According to the SCA, the length of fiber-optic lines doubled from 2017 to 2021.4 Third-generation (3G) technology for mobile networks is available in much of the country, with 98 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s territory covered. Fourth-generation (4G) services continued to expand during the coverage period, with 96.9 percent of inhabited localities covered, according to the SCA.5 In February 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers drafted a strategy for fifth-generation (5G) development that aimed to launch the technology commercially by the end of 2022, after it previously delayed an earlier timeline that would have seen 5G adopted by the end of 2021.6 In August 2022, the government gave mobile service providers permission to begin testing 5G technology, and the first test was completed in Bishkek, the capital.7 After successful tests, the SRSCS has planned 5G frequency auctions for 2023, though the auctions had not started as of the end of the coverage period.8

Despite being more readily available, mobile internet connections are slower and of lower quality than fixed ones. According to May 2023 data from Ookla’s Speedtest, the median download speed on mobile internet connections was just 25.2 megabytes per second (Mbps), compared to 51.43 Mbps on fixed-line connections.9

In October 2022, residents in Bishkek and other areas of Kyrgyzstan were either unable to access the internet or experienced dramatically slow speeds. Mobile operators and internet service providers (ISPs) attributed the disruption to issues with the backbone of the upstream provider. Although the disruption coincided with nationwide protests against the transfer of the Kempir-Abad reservoir to Uzbekistan,10 measurement sources did not indicate the disruption was intentional.

A2 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons? 2.002 3.003

In recent years, the average price of a mobile internet connection has decreased, becoming more affordable for much of the population, though fixed-line broadband prices remain steep. Prices offered by ISPs in Bishkek, where the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure is well-developed and competition is greater, are lower than in rural areas. Additionally, the quality of connection is better in Bishkek than in rural areas, where most of the population lives.1

According to 2022 data from the ITU, a 5-gigabyte (GB) fixed-line broadband subscription cost 6.22 percent of gross national income (GNI) per capita, while a monthly mobile broadband plan offering 2 GB of data cost 1.21 percent of GNI per capita.2 The monthly price of a 5 Mbps fixed-line broadband subscription in Bishkek was 513 soms ($5.8) in 2023.3 The monthly price for the same subscription in the rural Batken region was 600 soms ($6.8).4 According to the World Bank, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in 2021 was $1,306.20.5

The World Bank has observed digital divides in terms of geography, gender, and language (most online content is in Russian) in Kyrgyzstan.6

A3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 5.005 6.006

In past coverage periods, the government has throttled or restricted access to the internet. Using security or economic issues as pretexts, officials or parliamentarians sometimes call for the centralization of the country’s internet infrastructure. Their initiatives seldom gain traction.

In August 2023, after the coverage period, the Ministry of Culture announced it planned to block TikTok because of the alleged danger the application poses to children.1

To connect to the international internet, ISPs are not required to use government-owned channels, though getting their own channel can be challenging, as it requires permission from the Border Control Service. Kyrgyzstan’s 14 major ISPs operate international internet connections via Kazakhstan and China.

For a few hours during the October 2020 protests that led to former president Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s resignation, mobile internet was shut down in the center of Bishkek, where clashes between protesters and security forces occurred. All three primary mobile service providers blamed technical problems and a network overload for the disruptions on October 5 and 6, denying that they had received any orders from the government.2

There are three internet exchange points (IXPs) in Kyrgyzstan: two managed by a telecommunications industry group, the Association of Telecommunications Operators,3 and one controlled by the Kyrgyzstani branch of the Internet Society (ISOC).4

A4 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 3.003 6.006

Though there are no direct obstacles for ISPs and mobile service providers seeking to enter the market (besides getting licensed, a formality), they must still confront several indirect barriers. One is the high cost of building ICT infrastructure. Existing ISPs are not obligated to share their infrastructure, and there is no cap on the prices they can charge for renting out bandwidth. Another is the obligation to install surveillance equipment on all communications networks, which increases start-up costs (see C5 and C6).1 Finally, the industry has been marred by corruption scandals in recent years.

The telecommunications sector is relatively liberalized and competitive compared to other countries in the region; however, the state-owned KyrgyzTelecom remains the largest ISP.2 There are 13 other major ISPs, some of which have their own international internet channels and all of which are privately owned.

There are four mobile service providers offering mobile broadband: Beeline, MEGA (previously known as MegaCom), Nur Telecom (operating under the brand “O!”), and KT Mobile.3 Nur Telecom claims to be the leading operator in terms of market share.4 MEGA was nationalized in 2010 amid political upheaval.

In May 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers gave the Ministry of Digital Development the authority to act on its behalf as a controlling shareholder of MEGA and KyrgyzTelecom, among other entities (see A5).5

In July 2023, after the coverage period, the Fund for State Property Management announced that it planned to auction all of MEGA’s shares in October 2023, valuing the company at a minimum of $167 million and mandating that buyers pay a fee equal to 7 percent of the bid.6

In recent years, a wave of scandals concerning the SCA, telecommunications companies, and the sale of radio frequencies have come to light. SCA officials have been accused of impeding the work of operators,7 bribery, 8 extortion,9 and corruption. 10

There are no obstacles to providing free and open internet access through Wi-Fi hotspots.11

A5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner? 1.001 4.004

The government recently created a new regulatory body. Historically, regulatory bodies that oversee service providers do not always operate in a free and fair manner.

The Ministry of Digital Development, which was created in May 2021 after a regulation transformed the State Service of Digital Development, assumed the functions previously performed by the State Committee of Information Technologies and Communication (SCITC)—created in 2016—and its subsidiary, the SCA.1 The Minister of Digital Development serves as vice prime minister.2 The SCA was renamed the SRSCS in 2023, but it continues to carry out the same functions.

In January 2022, Talantbek Imanov was appointed as the Minister of Digital Development. He previously ran a factory specializing in the production of naval equipment and industrial goods, which, among other reasons, led prominent individuals in the ICT sector to view his appointment with skepticism.3 He was formerly the chauffeur for Alexei Shirshov, the former head of TNC Dastan who was accused of corruption for transferring public real estate to private ownership in 2022. In May 2022, a Cabinet of Ministers decree gave the Ministry of Digital Development the power to act on the cabinet’s behalf as the shareholder of KyrgyzTelecom, the Eurasian Savings Bank, TNC Dastan, and MEGA (see A4). Critics have questioned why TNC Dastan, which produces military weapons, was transferred to the Ministry of Digital Development. Akylbek Zhaparov, the head of the Cabinet of Ministers, claimed that TNC Dastan was transferred to the ministry because the government was planning to build data centers there.4 In September 2023, after the coverage period, Imanov resigned from his position and was appointed head of the National Investment Agency.5 Nuriya Kutnayeva, the former head of the Personal Data Protection Agency under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic, succeeded Imanov as the head of the ministry.6

The Ministry of Digital Development inherited the responsibilities of the SCITC and the State Registry Service, including developing ICT policy, governing the ICT sector, facilitating the sector’s development, and maintaining the population registry. The ministry also issues licenses for ISPs, sets standards, and ensures those standards are followed.7 Institutional memory within the ministry is limited, as incoming heads usually change all key staff.

B Limits on Content

B1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 3.003 6.006

Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because the government blocked access to online news outlets under the Law on Protection from False Information.

Authorities continued to engage in disproportionate and arbitrary blocking of online content during the coverage period. The government and judiciary’s broad application of antiextremism laws has impacted various websites hosting user-generated content. During the coverage period, the government began blocking websites under the Law on Protection from False Information (see B3).

As of May 2023, 459 websites, most of which offer MP3 and audio downloads, were blocked by a court decision. Most of them are blocked for allegedly hosting extremist content.1

In October 2022, the Ministry of Culture blocked Radio Azattyk’s website because of social media posts containing a video, which was produced by the partner outlet Current Time TV, that alleged Kyrgyzstani military units had attacked units in Tajikistan; the ministry subsequently tried to shut down the outlet (see B6 and C3). The ministry also claimed the video contained hate speech and would sow divisions within society.2 In March 2023, the Bishkek Administrative Court sided with the ministry upholding the news site’s blocking (see B3).3 In May, the Bishkek City Court upheld the decision of the administrative court.4 In July, after the coverage period, the Bishkek court canceled its previous decision after Radio Azattyk settled with the ministry, agreeing to remove the video. As part of the settlement, the Ministry of Culture requested that the Ministry of Digital Development unblock Azattyk.5

In August 2022, the SRSCS ordered the blocking of, one of the country’s largest news outlets, because the Ambassador Hotel claimed a story ran about the hotel was false. The website was blocked under the Law on Protection from False Information (see B3) for several hours until the Ministry of Culture reversed the initial order.6

In June 2022, the Ministry of Culture blocked news outlet Res Publica under the Law on Protection from False Information. The blocking followed a request from Asan Toktosunov, the former director of Manas Management, to delete articles on corruption at the Manas International Airport. The Ministry of Culture initially tasked the SRSCS to order Res Publica to delete the content. When the outlet refused, the website was blocked for two months, in accordance with the law. The Ministry of Culture also stated they were not obliged to check the veracity of the information.7

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 2.002 4.004

The government forced news outlets to remove content during the coverage period under the recently enacted Law on Protection from False Information (see B3, C4, and C6). Journalists who work online have occasionally removed political content under threat of violence from unknown actors (see C7).

Under the Law on Protection from False Information, the Ministry of Culture ordered the removal of a Res Publica article covering corruption at the Manas airport in June 20221 and an article on about the Ambassador Hotel in August 2022 (see B1).2 Additionally, when both outlets refused to comply, their websites were blocked (see B1). The decision to block Radio Azattyk in October 2022 was ultimately resolved in July 2023, after the coverage period, when the outlet agreed to remove a video that was in violation of the Law on Protection from False Information, depicting Kyrgyzstan’s military attacking Tajikistan’s military (see B1).3

Twitter did not produce a transparency report covering the reporting period.4 In 2022, the government did not issue any content removal requests to Google.5 Meta, Facebook’s parent company, did not remove any content based on government requests in the first half of 2022.6

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 1.001 4.004

Court orders are often used to block websites and remove content in Kyrgyzstan. The government recently enacted a law enabling a body within the Ministry of Culture to issue content removal demands and subsequently order the blocking of websites and platforms that refuse to comply.

The courts justify blocking sites under Article 315 of the criminal code, which prohibits extremist materials. These are expansively defined under the Law on Countering Extremist Activity as anything that stokes “ideological, political, racial, national, or religious hatred or enmity.”1 The prosecutor general’s office can also issue blocking and content removal requests to courts. The reasons for blocks are indicated in the court materials, which are only shared with the parties involved. Furthermore, the appeals process for challenging blocking orders is only open to the owner of the web resource being blocked or their official representative.

In July 2021, President Japarov signed the Law on Protection from False Information, which poses threats to free expression and user privacy.2 The law enables individuals or companies to file a complaint about false or defamatory information to a unit in the Ministry of Culture, which will have two days to respond to these complaints. If the content meets the criteria, websites or social media platforms must remove it within 24 hours. If the content is not removed, the individual or company who filed the complaint can then request the suspension of the website or the social media account that posted the information.3 The department can then issue a request to the ISPs to shut down the website or webpage for a period of up to two months.4 In April 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers passed regulations outlining the procedures for implementing the law.5

In February 2023, a group of parliamentarians discussed potential amendments to the law, which would give websites three days instead of 24 hours to remove content, ensure the Ministry of Culture checked the veracity of allegedly false or defamatory information, and provide more opportunities for news outlets to contest removal decisions in courts.6 In May, the parliament rejected the amendments in the first reading.7

In August 2023, after the coverage period, President Japarov signed amendments to two laws, “On Measures to Prevent Harm to the Health of Children, Their Physical, Intellectual, Mental, Spiritual and Moral Development” and “On Mass Media,” which enable the government to fine individuals who post content “harmful” to children.8 In June 2023, the parliament passed the law, stipulating that individuals who post “harmful” content can be fined $290. Jamilya Isayeva, the parliamentarian who introduced the law, included content that promotes “non-traditional sexual relations” or disparages parents in the definition of harmful content. Earlier that month, a ministry official said the government aimed to collaborate with Meta to block material to protect children based on the Ministry of Culture's decision on that material. The Media Policy Institute, which focuses on free expression issues in the country, criticized the law for its content and procedural irregularities.9

The Ministry of Justice’s official site, which hosts the official list of banned extremist and terrorist materials,10 contains outdated information and does not offer a full picture of website blocking. Compounding this lack of transparency, only a few ISPs, such as Megaline, publish lists of blocked sites and display a descriptive page when these sites are reached.

While ISPs are not directly liable for the content on their networks, they can lose their licenses if they fail to carry out a court order to block content.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 2.002 4.004

Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because of increased self-censorship since the passage of the Law on Protection from False Information and the subsequent crackdown on media outlets.

Self-censorship worsened during the coverage period, due in part to increased website blockings and prosecutions (see B1 and C3). All posts on online forums are strictly moderated to limit hateful content, and online journalists, bloggers, and everyday users generally try to avoid issues concerning ethnic relations. The Law on Protection from False Information (see B3, C4, and C6), recent orders to remove content and block websites (see B1 and B2), and the detention of critics (see C3) have had a chilling effect. In June 2023, Article 19, an organization focusing on free expression, noted the deterioration of “free expression, media freedom, and civic space” as the government continues to introduce and enact repressive legislation.1

Other laws may increase self-censorship, such as those governing defamation.

B5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 2.002 4.004

Online platforms, such as forums and social networks, have been used to manipulate public opinion. Trolls hired by various actors influence online discussions by expressing favorable or unfavorable views on politicians and political issues.

According to a report from the Central Asian Bureau for Analytical Reporting, candidates contesting the November 2021 snap parliamentary elections offered individuals $19 per day to publicly support the candidate in online groups on social media.1

In the wake of the October 2020 elections, a network of trolls linked to former customs official Raimbek Matraimov, which had initially supported Jeenbekov’s candidacy for president and the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party, began promoting Japarov’s candidacy.2 A report by investigative journalism site Kloop revealed that the same troll team continued to support Matraimov and President Japarov,3 with monthly salaries for individuals ranging from $100 to $3,000 depending on the activities they performed.4 According to a 2022 report from, which quotes sources within Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, another troll factory supporting the party in the 2020 elections employed an automated artificial intelligence system that created up to 150 inauthentic profiles per day for $350,000. The accounts created by this software were able to post both negative and positive comments after they were trained by a small team.5

In December 2020, Facebook reportedly removed a number of Facebook and Instagram accounts, groups, and pages that engaged in political activities in violation of the platforms’ policy on coordinated inauthentic behavior. In one case, Facebook linked a network that was focused primarily on the 2020 parliamentary elections and the 2021 snap presidential election to a company called Media Center.6

In October 2020, the nonprofit news outlet openDemocracy revealed that it had stopped collaborating with investigative journalist Elnura Alkanova because of her links to Matraimov, who was involved in a high-profile corruption scandal. The openDemocracy report demonstrated that Alkanova led a network of trolls to create inauthentic accounts; tarnish a joint investigation by Radio Azattyk, The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and Kloop (see C3); and praise Matraimov. Previously, openDemocracy had nominated her for a $125,000 award, which she won.7

Various online media outlets, some of which are owned by politicians or powerful business interests, are also used as tools of political influence.8

News outlets, including those that publish online, are sometimes given editorial guidance by their owners.9 These instructions are at times the result of government pressure.

In February 2022, government-linked “activists” and bloggers held a press conference in which they urged the parliament to pass a law requiring media outlets that received foreign funding to register as foreign agents, claiming that media outlets had spread misinformation. The press conference occurred just days before a parliamentarian proposed a “foreign agents” law (see B6).10

B6 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 2.002 3.003

There are no regulations imposed by the government that negatively impact users’ or online media outlets’ ability to publish content online. Online media outlets are not required to register with the government, though “mass media” outlets are. According to the 2022 Vibrant Information Barometer (VIBE) by the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX), “advertising revenues for all traditional media have decreased significantly as advertisers have shifted their focus to social networks.”1

In November 2022, the president’s office introduced a draft nongovernmental organization (NGO) law which would allow the state to obtain administrative documents, attend events organized by NGOs, and evaluate NGOs’ expenditures.2 Experts argue that this draft law is the same as the proposed 2014 law on “foreign agents,” but with different terminology; that draft was withdrawn in 2016.3 After the new draft law was widely criticized, the president’s office agreed to consult with a working group of experts on the law. The working group submitted the draft law to ministries in June 2023, after the coverage period.4 In February 2022, parliamentarian Nadira Narmatova had proposed renewing discussions on a draft law on “foreign agents.”5

In October 2022, following the Ministry of Culture’s order to block Radio Azattyk’s website earlier that month (see B1 and C3), the outlet’s bank accounts were blocked after a criminal case was opened under Article 14 of the Law on Counteracting the Financing of Terrorist Activities and the Legalization (Laundering) of Criminal Proceeds. In November 2022, in response to a request from Radio Azattyk, the State Financial Intelligence Service (SFIS) under the Ministry of Finance explained that the outlet had been put on the “list of individuals, groups, organizations in respect of which there is information about their participation in the legalization (laundering) of criminal proceeds” based on a letter from the SCNS written that month. Television and radio providers stopped broadcasting Radio Azattyk on all national channels. Also in November, the ministry filed an appeal to the district court requesting that the court rule that Azattyk Media no longer be recognized as mass media, under the definition of the law on mass media.6 In April 2023, the Lenin District Court ruled to terminate Radio Azattyk’s operations, effectively shutting down the outlet in Kyrgyzstan.7

In July, after the coverage period, the Bishkek City Court “annulled” the April ruling, allowing Radio Azattyk to begin operating again. The ruling came as a result of a settlement between the outlet and the Ministry of Culture, which mandated that Azattyk remove the video of military skirmishes at the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border.8

In September 2022, the president’s office presented a draft mass media law to replace the existing 1992 law. The draft would compel any website with more than 5,000 unique visitors a month, including social media pages, to register as mass media. The draft would prevent websites from disseminating information that reveals state secrets, incites or justifies terrorism, and contains “obscene language,” among other issues. After criticism from the media and other experts, the president’s office agreed to establish a working group focused on amending the draft.9 Analysis of the draft law demonstrated 90 percent of the law had been copied from Russian law. After several revisions, the provisions ordering bloggers to register as mass media were removed.10 A subsequent draft published in May 2023 did not include proposals from the media community, and banned the distribution of materials that promote same-sex marriage and are harmful to public health and morality. The public had until the middle of June, which is after the coverage period, to comment.11

B7 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability? 3.003 4.004

Research has demonstrated that the internet, and in particular social media platforms and messaging applications, have become an important source of alternative information for users.1 The main participants in online communities tend to be members of the wealthier, urban segments of the population who can afford consistent internet access (see A2). However, while campaigning in October 2020, then presidential candidate Japarov2 used social media to appeal to the Kyrgyz-speaking rural audience and project an image of himself as a national patriot and savior of the nation.3

B8 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 5.005 6.006

Digital activism remains limited in Kyrgyzstan, despite the availability of online mobilization tools. The government does not place any restrictions on these tools or their use, though it does pose restrictions on offline demonstrations.1

During the coverage period there were several significant rallies organized online. In October 2022, protesters gathered in Bishkek to support independent media outlets, including Azattyk, Kloop, and, that had been threatened earlier in the month (see B6, C3, and C7).2 Throughout October, there were several rallies against the transfer of the Kempir-Abad reservoir to Uzbekistan. Several participants were detained, and activists and politicians were arrested for allegedly organizing violent mass riots.3 In November 2022, more than 700 people attended rallies in support of freedom of expression in Bishkek and Osh.4 In March 2023, more than 500 people participated in the annual march for women’s rights.5

  • 1“Запрет на проведение митингов в Первомайском районе Бишкека продлен до конца июня. [Ban on holding rallies in Pervomaisky district of Bishkek extended until the end of June],” Azattyk, April 3, 2023,
  • 2“В Бишкеке прошел марш в защиту независимых СМИ [A march in defense of independent media was held in Bishkek],” Azattyk, October, 14, 2022,
  • 3“Делимитация границ. Кыргызстан под угрозой беспорядков из-за спорного соглашения с Узбекистаном [Border demarcation. Kyrgyzstan threatened by disorder over controversial agreement with Uzbekistan],” Azattyk, October 26, 2023,
  • 4“В Бишкеке и Оше прошли митинги за свободу слова. [Rallies for freedom of speech were held in Bishkek and Osh],” Kloop, November 25, 2022,….
  • 5“Мирный марш за права женщин в Бишкеке,” [Peaceful march for women's rights in Bishkek],, March 8, 2023,….

C Violations of User Rights

C1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? 2.002 6.006

The constitutional reforms initiated by President Japarov in 2021 posed threats to freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary.

In April 2021, voters approved the referendum for a new constitution, which concentrated power in the hands of the president. A joint opinion from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) highlighted issues with the process of drafting the constitution, including the limited opportunity for public consultation and the general “lack of respect for the principles of rule of law and legality.”1

The constitution, adopted in May 2021, includes vague definitions that could negatively impact freedom of speech. For example, Article 10 on mass media mentions that activities that contradict the “moral and ethical values and public consciousness of the people of the Kyrgyz Republic” may be restricted by law to protect the younger generation; this could lead to increased censorship of media outlets and individuals.2

Additionally, the law gives the president power to strip immunity from parliamentarians and to appoint judges, including judges at the local level.3 Corruption among judges, who are generally underpaid, is already widespread, hindering the fairness of decisions in freedom of expression cases and other litigation.4

Article 32 of the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of thought, expression, speech, and the press.5

The government’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic only exempted journalists working for state-run outlets from strict quarantine measures.6

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 2.002 4.004

There are several vaguely defined laws used to penalize legitimate online activities.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the parliament amended the code of violations in April 2020 to introduce fines for disseminating false information “aimed at violating the rule of law, or actions that violate public order and peace of individuals” during a state of emergency or when martial law has been declared.1

In October 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the prosecutor general’s office must obtain the approval of the president before filing lawsuits in defense of their “honor and dignity.” The ruling further required that such defamation lawsuits must only seek nonpecuniary damages.2 The ruling followed a series of defamation lawsuits filed by the prosecutor general’s office in 2017 against media outlet Zanoza for libeling then president Atambayev in articles that compared him to well-known authoritarian rulers and implied that he was corrupt.3

In 2011, the parliament decriminalized libel, aligning the law with the 2010 constitution.4 Defamation is only a criminal offense in cases of insult against judges and other participants in legal proceedings or desecration of the state, state symbols, and state institutions.5

The criminal code, which entered force in January 2019, outlaws inciting ethnic, national, racial, religious, or interregional hostility (Article 313, previously Article 299-1) and provides for prison terms of 5 to 10 years for violators.6 The code also punishes the possession of “extremist materials” with the intent to distribute (Article 315, previously Article 299-2) with up to five years in prison.7 Previously, possession of “extremist materials” was illegal regardless of intent. In some cases, the government has sought to apply these anti-extremism laws to restrict nonviolent political speech.

Several laws also impose disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression. In February 2023, President Japarov signed a new Law on Countering Extremist Activities, which replaced the previous law, last amended in 2016.8 Like its predecessor, the law criminalizes public expressions of approval of and justification for extremism or terrorism, raising concerns about possible restrictions on legitimate expression online. The law also defines the scope of extremist materials prohibited by Article 315 (previously, Article 299-2) of the criminal code.9 However, the new version of the law also criminalizes calls for a violent seizure of power, which could be used against those who criticize of the authorities.10

Under a 2014 amendment to the criminal code, those found guilty of disseminating “knowingly false messages about the commission of crimes” faced steep fines and prison sentences of up to three years.11 In the 2019 criminal code, the maximum sentence under this provision, Article 344, was increased to five years.12 Even though, according to case law, this provision does not apply to mass media, the SCNS has nevertheless used it to harass online media outlets (see C3).13

C3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 2.002 6.006

Users continued to face civil or criminal penalties for protected online expression during the coverage period.

According to data from the General Prosecutor’s Office covering the first nine months of 2022, there were 25 criminal cases opened under the criminal code’s Article 278, relating to calling for “mass disorders,” and Article 330, which concerns incitement of racial, ethnic, national, religious inter-regional hatred. Twenty-three of the cases concerned publications in social networks.1

In January 2023, the Bishkek City Court sentenced Adilet Baltabay, blogger and activist, to five years in prison for inciting mass riots, annulling a November 2022 ruling from the Pervomaisky District Court that commuted the five-year prison sentence to three years of probation.2 In June 2022, Baltabay, who had been working for online news channel Next TV at the time, was summoned for questioning over 20 to 30 Facebook posts that criticized the government, including its efforts to restrict freedom of expression.

In November 2022, the Bishkek City Court ordered the deportation of Bolot Temirov, the head of YouTube-based outlet TemirovLIVE, to Russia for falsifying a passport, and prevented from entering Kyrgyzstan for five years.3 In January 2022, narcotics officers had raided the office of TemirovLIVE, which is known for exposing corruption among government officials, and arrested Temirov (see C7). The officers found a small bag of marijuana during the raid, which Temirov alleged was planted, and seized all computers and video recording equipment. Temirov was charged with drug possession and later released on bail. Bolot Nazarov, a poet and folk artist who posts his songs on the TemirovLIVE channel, was also arrested in the raid, charged with drug possession, and placed under house arrest.4 Just two days before the raid, TemirovLIVE published an investigation alleging that the relatives of SCNS chief Kamchybek Tashiev were involved in corruption.5 After an April 2022 follow-up investigation, Temirov, who is also a Russian citizen, was charged with falsifying the documents he used to obtain his Kyrgyzstani passport and in turn, “illegal border crossing.”6 In September 2022, the Sverdlovsk District Court acquitted him on the illegal border crossing and drug possession charges, but found him guilty of falsifying his passport.7

In November 2022, the government opened an investigation into Azattyk under Article 14 of the Law on Counteracting the Financing of Terrorist Activities and the Legalization (Laundering) of Criminal Proceeds,8 threatening the outlet’s ability to operate in the country. The case followed the Ministry of Culture’s decision to block Radio Azattyk’s website after the outlet shared a video produced by Current Time TV depicting military clashes between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan at the border (see B1 and B6) on its social media channels. In July 2023, after the coverage period, the courts closed the broader case following a settlement between the ministry and Azattyk, which resulted in Azzatyk removing the video and the ministry ordering the unblocking of the website.9

In October 2022, the Pervomaisky District Court sentenced a woman to one year in prison for a tweet in which she declared Kyrgyzstani people owe everything to Russians. The court found that the post incited hatred among ethnic groups.10 In November 2022, the Bishkek City Court confirmed the decision.11

In September 2022, Taalaibek Duishenbiev, the director of Next TV, was found guilty of extremism and sentenced to five years in prison, but the judge commuted the sentence to three years of probation, during which he will have to remain in Bishkek and routinely check in with the authorities.12 The charge stemmed from Duishenbiev’s March 2022 arrest over a Next TV report alleging that the former head of Kazakhstan’s intelligence service claimed to have knowledge of a “secret agreement” for Kyrgyzstan to provide military support for Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine.13 At the end of March, a Bishkek court ruled that the post, which Next TV published on both Facebook and Telegram, was "extremist."14

In August 2022, 19-year-old blogger Yrys Jekshenaliev published an old video showing former SCNS head Adil Segizbaev criticizing the idea of developing the Jetim-Too goldfield in Naryn. In the same month, residents rallied against the development the field, and Dzhekshenaliev was arrested for calling for “violent seizure of power and mass riots.” In April 2023, prosecutors requested a six-year prison sentence of for Jekshenaliev,15 but the case remained ongoing as of the end of the coverage period.

In February 2022, a district prosecutor’s office opened a criminal case against independent news agency under Article 407 of the criminal code, which concerns war propaganda, for reprinting a Tajikistani news agency’s report that claimed the Kyrgyzstani army had been the first to fire in a January 2022 clash on the countries’ shared border.16 All journalists working for were called to the prosecutor’s office for interrogation and forced to sign nondisclosure agreements.17 In May 2022, the case was closed “due to the absence of crime in the act.”18

C4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 2.002 4.004

Recent legal measures place restrictions on anonymity. The Law on Protection from False Information, which the president signed in July 2021 (see B3), requires ISPs, mobile service providers, and owners of public Wi-Fi hotspots to “identify their subscribers.”1

In June 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the regulation that would require International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) registration for mobile phones and smart devices. 2 The Ministry of Digital Development had initially published the regulation in December 2021. The implementation of IMEI registration and the maintenance of the database will be handled by a private company, raising questions about the security of the data.3

Since 2014, service providers have been required to register SIM cards at the time of purchase, making it more difficult for individuals to use mobile devices anonymously.4

C5 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 2.002 6.006

State surveillance of internet activities often infringes on users’ right to privacy. Article 29 of the new constitution (see C1) nominally protects privacy, including private communications shared by phone or electronic methods, and forbids the collection or dissemination of confidential information without the subject’s consent, but existing protections are frequently ignored in practice.1

The state’s surveillance apparatus is modeled after Russia’s System for Operational Investigative Activities (SORM). Every ISP and mobile service provider is obliged to install SORM-compliant equipment on their ICT infrastructure to allow the authorities unfettered access to internet traffic and subscribers’ information (see C6). If a provider does not comply, its license can be canceled.

These requirements could enable mass surveillance without judicial oversight, and there has been evidence of abuse since they were implemented. For example, in August 2021, the Ministry of Interior admitted to wiretapping several individuals in January and February 2021, allegedly for their roles in the October 2020 protests. However, the list of individuals also includes people who were not involved in the protests.2

In May 2022, the parliament passed the law that would enable the SCNS to conduct video and audio surveillance without a prior court decision.3

C6 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy? 2.002 6.006

By law, service providers are required to aid the government in monitoring users’ communications. In 2014, the government adopted a resolution requiring ISPs and mobile service providers to make their infrastructure compliant with the latest iteration of SORM (see C5).1 The resolution further requires providers to store subscribers’ metadata for up to three years and to allow authorities direct, real-time access to their communications networks without notification and oversight, even from prosecutors. In addition, ISPs must purchase and update equipment at their own expense to ensure compliance with SORM.

The August 2021 Law on the Protection from False Information (see B3 and C4) mandates that all ISPs and mobile service providers identify their users.2

The parliament passed a personal data law in 2008 that provided for the establishment of an authority for personal data protection, but such an agency was not created until September 2021.3 In 2017, amendments to the 2008 law were passed to protect personal data more effectively.4

C7 1.00-5.00 pts0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities? 3.003 5.005

ICT users, including online journalists, faced physical and digital attacks in the run-up to the October 2020 parliamentary elections.

In October 2022, a crowd gathered in front of the Radio Azattyk office in Bishkek demanding the closure of the RFE/ERL service and other outlets, including Kloop and The crowd also urged the government to pass a law on foreign agents (see B6). During the rally, the participants threatened to burn the Azattyk office and to injure its employees.1 Journalists recognized some protesters as supporters of the current government, who are regular participants in rallies against media outlets.2

Also in October 2022, Bektursun Joroobekov, a Super TV journalist, was attacked by four men. According to Super TV editor in chief Elvira Karayeva, Joroobekov sustained serious head injuries and the assailants filmed the attack, forcing him to apologize to one of the men, who he had previously covered in a report.3

In September, a journalist for Voice of America’s regional agency was attacked in Osh and severely beaten by two men while recording a story on humanitarian aid to the Batken region. He told reporters that the attack may have been related to his Tajik appearance, as it occurred during the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border conflict.4

In February 2022, Alikhan Uraimov, head of the Office of the Presidential Administration in Batken Oblast, hit blogger and journalist Batmakan Jolboldueva when she tried to participate in a meeting involving parliamentarians from several parties.5 Later, she published a video detailing the numerous threats she and her family had received from Uraimov’s relatives.6

During Bolot Temirov's January 2022 arrest and raid of the TemirovLIVE office (see C3), narcotics officers found a small bag of marijuana, which Temirov alleged was planted during the operation. They also seized all computers and recording equipment in the office. Just days after the raid, several videos containing reports, contracts, and other documents allegedly obtained from seized computers were published online. Additionally, an intimate video of a TemirovLIVE employee was published. The video had been recorded by an SCNS employee who had pursued a romantic relationship with the employee in order to obtain information about the outlet. Later, the SCNS denied its involvement in the operation and with the compromising videos.7 Prior to the raid, TemirovLIVE employees had noticed suspicious vehicles outside the office, and in December 2021, Temirov reportedly found a hidden camera and microphone in his apartment.

Online hate speech toward feminists and LGBT+ people is commonplace.8

C8 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? 1.001 3.003

During the coverage period, the practice of politically motivated cyberattacks continued, and the parliament experienced a significant cyberattack.

In August 2022, an unknown entity hacked the website of the parliament, bringing it offline. After 24 days, the website returned online. The parliament’s website was previously hacked in October 2020.1

In October 2022, two news outlets, Kloop and T-media, reported that live broadcasts from Uzgen during the rally against the transfer of the Kempir-Abad reservoir to Uzbekistan were interrupted due to a cyberattack on the Facebook pages of the journalists covering the event.2

In February 2022, Kloop reported that 20 of its employees had faced attempts to hack their Telegram accounts.3 In the same month, reported that their employees had faced multiple hacking attempts on their Telegram and WhatsApp accounts.4

On Kyrgyzstan

See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    27 100 not free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    52 100 partly free
  • Freedom in the World Status

    Not Free
  • Networks Restricted

  • Websites Blocked

  • Pro-government Commentators

  • Users Arrested