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RFE/RL Challenges Kyrgyz Government Decision to Block Websites


Kyrgyzstan - Demonstrators march in support of independent media
Kyrgyzstan - Demonstrators march in support of independent media

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, RFE/RL filed an administrative complaint with Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy. The complaint is a response to the Ministry’s decision to block Kyrgyz Service websites for two months after the broadcaster refused to remove a video report about clashes at the border with Tajikistan.

In the administrative complaint, RFE/RL argued that the Ministry’s actions are invalid and fail to meet the most basic requirements of Kyrgyz law. As a result, Kyrgyz authorities are using questionable legal means to crack down on free media in the country.

“RFE/RL will exercise our legal rights to the fullest extent of the law to uphold media freedom in Kyrgyzstan,” said RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “Radio Azattyk is, and will remain, a voice of independent and trusted news in the country.”

Since last week’s actions, Kyrgyz officials have taken additional punitive steps against RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service. Kyrgyz authorities have suspended the Service’s bank account on blatantly pretextual grounds. The National Television and Radio Corporation stopped transmitting radio shows on October 23, citing “a technical malfunction of the satellite receiver.” These events follow a recent protest outside RFE/RL’s Bishkek bureau that called on authorities to close the Service and other independent local outlets. Additionally, legislation has been proposed that would further limit media freedom.

RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, is an award-winning, multimedia source of independent news in Kyrgyzstan, reporting in Kyrgyz and Russian. A media leader in Kyrgyzstan for decades, the Service pioneered live TV news coverage, field reporting, and dynamic programs focusing on women and youth in an increasingly competitive media environment. The Service is known for its in-depth investigative reporting on public corruption, environmental issues, and gender-based violence. In 2021, the Services saw 22 million combined website visits, over 112 million video views on YouTube, and millions more on other social media platforms.

About RFE/RL
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 7 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Victoria Benner in Washington, D.C. (bennerv@rferl.org, +1.202.993.0875)
Karin Maree in Prague (mareek@rferl.org, +420.221.122.074)

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