Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Freedom of the press declined in 2002 as a result of the government's attempts to introduce new restrictions on independent media. Although Articles 15 and 16 of the constitution provide for freedom of expression and the press, local journalists do not fully enjoy these rights. In recent years, the administration of President Askar Akayev, increasingly impatient with critics of the regime, has taken a number of steps to curb or control opposition media outlets. Libel is a criminal offense and journalists face the threat of harsh fines and prison terms. The Law on Mass Media contains similar restrictions on defamation. Consequently, self-censorship is common among media professionals. A 2001 decree made it easier for the state to imprison critical reporters. In January 2002, a separate decree prohibited the operation of independent printing presses for the first five months of the year. During this time, the state publishing house refused to print the independent newspapers Res Publika and Moya Stolitsa. Nearly 70 percent of all media outlets are in private hands. Yet unlike state-sponsored media, few private outlets reach a national audience. Internet publications are becoming increasingly popular and serve to partially bypass the temporary restrictions on independent printing. Nevertheless, Internet use is generally limited to the capital.