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Journalists in Trouble: Kyrgyz Government Moves to Shutter RFE/RL


Afghanistan - Women protesting in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in early October.
Afghanistan - Women protesting in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in early October.

Kyrgyz government moves to shut down RFE/RL; Radio Azadi defies Taliban restrictions; Darya Losik is sentenced; and more.

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KYRGYZSTAN: Government Moves to Shutter RFE/RL

On January 23, RFE/RL learned that the Kyrgyz Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports, and Youth Policy asked a Bishkek court to shut down RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk. A hearing on the application is scheduled to take place on February 9.

According to the Ministry, the request was made due to Radio Azattyk's refusal to take down a video about clashes along a disputed segment of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. In October, Kyrgyz authorities blocked Radio Azattyk’s website and froze the Service’s bank account. RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly spoke to The Diplomat about the motives behind the crackdown.

"We will pursue all available legal means to preserve our operations in the country,” Fly said in a statement condemning the Kyrgyz government’s actions. Radio Azattyk has filed lawsuits against the Kyrgyz government’s actions. A hearing on the website ban took place on January 26. The court granted RFE/RL’s request for additional documentation from the Ministry.

The Kyrgyz government’s latest move has been condemned by Kyrgyz media, as well as international watchdogs including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders, and U.S. Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Risch (R-ID). RFE/RL is grateful for their support.

Ahead of the February 9 hearing, we urge you to call on the Kyrgyz authorities to withdraw their application to close Radio Azattyk, lift the restrictions on the Service, and to work instead to foster a free media environment.

AFGHANISTAN: Azadi Defies Taliban Ban, Doubles Time on Air

Two months after the Taliban removed RFE/RL’s award-winning programming from AM and FM radio transmission networks in Afghanistan, Azadi, as the Afghan Service is known locally, is doubling its time on air. The Service is now available 24 hours a day in the Dari and Pashto languages. This broadcasting milestone comes on Azadi’s 21st anniversary, and further solidifies RFE/RL’s role as a true public broadcaster – the only non-governmental radio broadcaster available 24/7 in Afghanistan.

Azadi is a staple of everyday life in Afghanistan, commonly heard in public settings, from marketplaces to taxis. Afghans have again and again expressed their appreciation and gratitude to RFE/RL for providing a vital public service. In the face of Taliban restrictions, RFE/RL will continue to find new and innovative ways to reach audiences.

BELARUS: Darya Losik, Wife Of Jailed RFE/RL Journalist, Sentenced to Two Years In Prison

On January 17, a Belarusian court sentenced Darya Losik, the wife of jailed RFE/RL journalist Ihar Losik, to two years in prison for “facilitating extremism.” The charge stems from an interview Darya gave to the Poland-based Belsat television channel that has been designated as an extremist group by Minsk. The sentencing was condemned by U.S., EU, and Czech officials.

Darya’s husband Ihar Losik has been imprisoned since June 2020. On January 27, Freedom Now and international law firm Dechert LLP filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention alleging that Losik’s detention infringes on his right to freedom of expression.

LATVIA/LITHUANIA: New RFE/RL Offices Serve as Havens for Displaced Journalists

In January, RFE/RL opened new offices in Riga, Latvia and Vilnius, Lithuania as part of its strategy to counter disinformation and reach new audiences in Belarus and Russia with trusted, independent news and information.

The Riga office will become one of RFE/RL’s largest reporting hubs and host journalists who were forced out of Russia in March 2022. The office will produce uncensored Russian-language content for audiences within Russia, as well as those in the Baltics, wider Europe, and beyond.

The Vilnius office will welcome journalists exiled from Belarus in the aftermath of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s fraudulent 2020 re-election. They will produce content for Russian-speaking audiences in Belarus as an alternative to Kremlin and other state propaganda.

THANK YOU FOR READING

You can always reach us by writing to advocacy@rferl.org.

About Journalists in Trouble

Journalists in Trouble is a monthly report of incidents targeting RFE/RL journalists and their work, and developments affecting press freedom in our coverage region.​

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