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RFE/RL Back On the Air in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz Service correspondent Kanymgul Elkeeva interviews historian Turat Syrdybayev, 1 April 2010
(Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan) After nearly two years off the national airwaves, RFE/RL's popular radio and television programs in Kyrgyzstan are once again widely available to listeners and viewers across the country.

The move reverses a 2008 decision by UTRK, the national broadcaster, to remove RFE/RL programming due to what it described as "negative and critical" coverage of the government. At the time, the head of UTRK said RFE/RL's Radio Azattyk (as it is known locally) could remain on the air only if it agreed to submit programs for prior approval. RFE/RL rejected the offer and, without UTRK's nationwide reach, lost nearly two-thirds of its Kyrgyz audience.

"Despite this ban, our reporters have continued to routinely break stories and influence the debate in Kyrgyzstan," said Radio Azattyk Director Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev. "We've been airing on a few private stations in Bishkek and we have a website with live broadcasts, around-the-clock news updates, videos, photos, and interactive features."
Despite this ban, our reporters have continued to routinely break stories and influence the debate in Kyrgyzstan.

According to the independent media research firm Intermedia, nearly 50 percent of adults in Kyrgyzstan tuned in to Radio Azattyk at least once a week prior to being dropped by UTRK on October 8, 2008.

In the wake of last week's uprising that led to the ouster of Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiev, Radio Azattyk is back on UTRK. It is broadcasting three hours of daily radio programming and two weekly primetime television news shows - "Inconvenient Questions" and the youth-oriented "Azattyk Plus."

"This is welcome news for the Kyrgyz people," said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. "Now, more than ever, Kyrgyzstan needs a free and independent media in order to allow its citizens to make informed decisions based on truthful information."

Since the crisis erupted last week, RFE/RL's reporters have been covering the unrest from Bishkek and throughout the country. The Kyrgyzstan Main Page on RFE/RL's English-language Web site has news, analysis, videos, and photos from the region. RFE/RL also has experts available in Kyrgyzstan for media interviews.

TODAY'S STORIES (April 12, 2010):
- James Kirchick: Reporter's Notebook: The Mountain Roza Otunbaeva Has To Climb
- Kyrgyz Interim Government Announces Appointments
- Defiant Kyrgyz Leader Addresses Supporters In South
- U.S. Air Base In Kyrgyzstan Resumes Full Operations

About RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service
Online and on the air, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, has been a consistent and dependable provider of independent information in Kyrgyzstan for more than 50 years. Today, Radio Azattyk is a trusted source within Kyrgyzstan, with its stories - both broadcast and online - regularly cited and reprinted by local and regional media.