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Kyrgyzstan: Government move to close radio station is latest blow to the right to freedom of expression

Reacting to news that the authorities in Kyrgyzstan have applied to a court to close Radio Azattyk, the national service of the US broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“The closure of Radio Azattyk would be a deep and stark attack on the right to freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan adding to the continuing repression against journalists and other voices critical of the authorities. The international community cannot ignore the threat looming over human rights in Kyrgyzstan and must call on Bishkek to comply with its international human rights obligations in full. The application to close Radio Azattyk should be withdrawn, its website unblocked, and journalists and other media workers in Kyrgyzstan should be able to work without fear of reprisals.”

The closure of Radio Azattyk would be a deep and stark attack on the right to freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan adding to the continuing repression against journalists and other voices critical of the authorities

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Background

On 24 January, Radio Azattyk was notified of an application submitted to the Lenin District Court in Bishkek by the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Culture, Information, Sport and Youth, seeking to terminate Radio Azattyk’s operations. The reason for the lawsuit was reportedly the publication on Radio Azattyk’s social media channels of a video produced by the radio’s sister organization, Current Time TV, which covered the September 2022 border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The video allegedly violates the law “On the Mass Media,” which forbids “propaganda of war, violence and cruelty, national, religious exclusivity and intolerance to other peoples and nations.”

In October 2022, the material was cited as the reason for blocking Radio Azattyk’s website while its bank accounts were frozen under national money laundering laws. In December, the website ban was declared “indefinite.”

Over the past year, government critics, journalists and other media workers have been repeatedly harassed in Kyrgyzstan. On 23 November, Bolot Temirov, the founder of the investigative project Temirov Live, was stripped of his Kyrgyz citizenship and forcibly deported to Moscow in retaliation for his criticism of the authorities.