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Central Asia in Focus: Kyrgyz Authorities Trying to Close Down Kloop


Photo of Kloop Media’s website, courtesy of Current Time, RFE/RL.
Photo of Kloop Media’s website, courtesy of Current Time, RFE/RL.

In this week’s edition: Kyrgyz authorities try to shut down Kloop, Kazakhstan builds its oil tanker fleet, markets reopen along the Tajik-Afghan border, and more.

In the Region

Kyrgyz Authorities Trying to Close Down Kloop

Kyrgyz authorities are moving to shut down the independent nonprofit Kloop Media Foundation.

Since its founding in 2007, Kloop Media has been a hard-hitting investigative source of information about political affairs and corruption in Kyrgyzstan.

On August 22, the Bishkek city prosecutor’s office filed a case with the Oktyabr and Birinchi Mai courts to liquidate Kloop Media because the foundation’s charter allegedly did not list media activity among its undertakings.

This is probably a good time to repeat that the name of the organization is Kloop “Media.”

On August 28, Kloop received the notice of the application to close it down.

Later that day, Kloop.kg reported on the accusations Bishkek prosecutor Emilbek Abdymannapov was making against the organization after consulting with state-appointed experts.

Abdymannapov claimed because of Kloop’s negative reports on socio-economic conditions in Batken, people were leaving the southern province for other areas of Kyrgyzstan, or leaving the country entirely.

Also, Abdymannapov said Kloop’s reporting “has a negative emotional-psychological effect on society… generating fear, anxiety, despair, and panic among a huge number of people...”

Kloop has often reported on corruption and has partnered with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Azattyk, to produce investigative reports.

Kloop’s Chief Editor Anna Kapushenko told Kyrgyzstan’s Kaktus Media on August 28, “We noticed that those human rights activists and journalists who strongly criticize the current government are involved in completely absurd cases…”

Kapushenko added that now, “we are in a series of absurd events.”

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna called on Kyrgyz authorities to “immediately withdraw this application and stop their campaign of pressure against the independent press.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Central Asia Researcher Syinat Sultanalieva said “The lawsuit against Kloop Media is the most recent in a string of attacks on freedom of media and freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan.”

Why It’s Important: Kloop is the latest target of a campaign against independent media in Kyrgyzstan that has been underway for nearly one year.

CPJ and HRW both noted the deportation of anti-corruption reporter Bolot Temirov from Kyrgyzstan in November 2022.

Both organizations also mentioned Kyrgyz authorities blocked access to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyz Service websites and froze its bank account in October 2022 until July 2023 when the Bishkek City Court annulled the earlier court decisions.

The question now is which independent media outlet Kyrgyz authorities will target next.

Kazakhstan Building Caspian, Black Sea Oil Tanker Fleet

Kazakhstan is purchasing more oil tankers for its Caspian and Black Sea fleets to lessen its dependence on oil export routes through Russia.

Bloomberg reported on August 31 that Kazakhstan plans to buy two tankers with deadweight tonnage of 80,000 metric tons each for shipping oil from Georgian Black Sea ports.

Kazakhstan’s state oil and gas company KazMunaiGaz (KMG) signed an agreement with UAE company Abu Dhabi Ports Group in February this year to develop Kazakhstan’s tanker fleet.

The two companies formed the Caspian Integrated Maritime Solutions (CIMS) joint venture.

CIMS is part of Kazakhstan’s efforts to open alternative oil export routes to the Russian routes Kazakhstan currently uses.

CIMS purchased two oil tankers with deadweight tonnage of 8,000 metric tons in July for use in Kazakhstan’s Caspian Sea fleet.

According to the website of Kazmortransflot, KMG’s subsidiary for the maritime fleet, Kazakhstan currently has three oil tankers with deadweight tonnage of 12,368 metric tons each in the Caspian Sea.

Kazakhstan already has two Aframax-class tankers, deadweight tonnage 115,000 metric tons, operating on the open seas and expects the two new tankers, and possibly a third, to join them before year’s end.

Why It’s Important: Kazakhstan currently exports 80 percent of oil, more than 50 million metric tons, through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium to the Russian Black Sea port at Novorossiysk.

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has ordered the expansion of alternative oil export routes.

Kazakhstan plans to ship 1.5 million metric tons across the Caspian and through Azerbaijan to the Black Sea but is looking to increase this amount.

The Latest Majlis Podcast

This week’s Majlis podcast looks at recent evidence showing Turkmenistan is a methane gas super-emitter.

Turkmenistan trails only the United States and Russia in terms of methane gas emissions.

Authorities hint they’ll take measures to correct the problem, but there is no indication they are doing so.

To discuss the effects of these methane emissions on the environment and on people’s health.

This week’s guests are:

  • Kate Watters, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Crude Accountability; and
  • Aynabat Yaylymova, Founder and Executive Director of Progres Foundation.

What I'm Following

Border Markets Reopen along Tajik-Afghan Frontier

Four Tajik-Afghan border markets that have been closed since August 2021 have reopened.

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reported authorities in both countries confirmed the markets’ reopening on September 2.

The Tajik government closed these markets immediately after the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

Publicly, Tajikistan’s government has not tried to establish a dialogue with the Taliban government despite all the other four Central Asian states having done so.

The far eastern regions of Tajikistan and Afghanistan are high in the mountains, sparsely populated, and difficult to provision due to limited transport infrastructure, making the markets vital to local residents.

Kyrgyz Political Heavyweight Detained

The leader of the Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan party, Adakhan Madumarov, was detained in Bishkek on September 2.

Madumarov is a deputy in Kyrgyzstan’s parliament and his Butun Kyrgyzstan party leads the opposition faction there.

Madumarov is a veteran politician who has run for president four times, including in 2021 when he ran against current President Sadyr Japarov.

Kyrgyz authorities have been detaining dozens of their political opponents in the last year and putting pressure on independent media that criticize the government (see above).

A court ordered Madumarov be kept in custody until October 24, while he is investigated for treason over a border deal with Tajikistan that he signed in 2009.

There have been three revolutions in Kyrgyzstan since 2005, proof that the patience of Kyrgyzstan’s people has its limits.

The current authorities are alienating more and more people across a broad spectrum of society, creating a potentially volatile situation.

Fact of the Week

The number of first graders beginning school in Turkmenistan this year was 76,677.

This is less than half the number compared to last year when the number of first graders who started was 159,772.

Thanks for Reading

Thanks for reading Central Asia in Focus! I appreciate you sharing it with other readers who may be interested.

Feel free to contact me on Twitter or by responding to this email, especially if you have any questions, comments, or just want to connect about topics concerning Central Asia. See you next week for more on what’s happening in Central Asia.

Until next time,
Bruce

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    Bruce Pannier

    Bruce Pannier authors RFE/RL's "Central Asia in Focus" newsletter and appears regularly on the RFE/RL's Majlis podcast.

About Central Asia in Focus

An authoritarian tide is sweeping through Central Asia, resulting in political repression and a stark retreat in civil liberties. Central Asia in Focus, a bi-weekly newsletter, focuses on key events shaping the course of the region. Author Bruce Pannier shares personal insights informed by his three decades of experience covering Central Asia, and tells his readers what may come next.

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