HELSINKI COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT CRACKDOWN ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN KYRGYZSTAN
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) today called on the government of Kyrgyzstan to allow independent media and opposition to freely express their views following a crackdown on several media outlets and efforts to prevent public protests.
“I am deeply concerned about the deteriorating media situation in Kyrgyzstan, highlighted by the government’s stoppage of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcasts,” said Chairman Cardin. “The effective blocking of information from RFE/RL affiliates and barring of access to several independent news websites underscore a disturbing trend to hinder free expression and free flow of information in Kyrgyzstan over the past year.”
“By trying to prevent citizens from receiving information and banning peaceful protest, the government of Kyrgyzstan is violating basic OSCE principles,” said Co-Chairman Hastings. “I call on President Bakiev to stop this crackdown on free expression, allow RFE/RL programs to be broadcast and ensure Kyrgyz citizens are able to exercise their rights.”
The broadcasts were halted just days before planned rallies marking the fifth anniversary of the Tulip Revolution and protesting limits on free speech, economic problems, and government corruption and nepotism. Kyrgyz police confiscated the independent newspaper Forum on March 16, which contained information about a planned rally and an interview with an opposition politician. Later that day a Bishkek court banned an opposition march scheduled for March 17 in the capital.
The deteriorating media situation – including the murder of several of journalists -- has resulted in a climate of fear and self-censorship in a country previously considered a leader in Central Asia on freedom of expression. Five years after President Bakiev’s rise to power, Freedom House has downgraded the country from “partly free” to “not free” in the organization’s latest annual survey, Freedom in the World.
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