WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Kyrgyz government takes steps to shut down Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk, President and CEO Jamie Fly visited Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to advocate for the Service and media freedom in the country.
While in Bishkek, Fly met with President Sadyr Japarov for a productive conversation about Azattyk’s role in providing objective information to the Kyrgyz people. He also met with Kyrgyz parliamentarians; United States Ambassador Lesslie Viguerie; European Union Ambassador Marilyn Josefson; the Ambassadors of France and Germany; civil society representatives; and staff in RFE/RL’s Bishkek bureau. In every discussion, Fly emphasized the historically significant role Azattyk plays in Kyrgyzstan as a leading independent media outlet with an established record holding public figures to account.
“70 years of reporting in Kyrgyz has shown us that the Kyrgyz people want access to independent information,” said Fly. “We urge the Kyrgyz government to halt all attacks on independent media and ensure that Kyrgyzstan retains its role as the region’s freest media market.”
A scheduled February 9 hearing in a Bishkek court on the government’s petition to shutter Azattyk was postponed until February 20. RFE/RL will continue to use all legal avenues to challenge the government’s unlawful actions to censor its reporting.
Since October, Kyrgyz officials have taken punitive steps against Azattyk as part of a larger crackdown on free media in the country. The Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy blocked Kyrgyz Service websites for refusing to remove reporting about clashes at the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, and authorities suspended Azattyk’s bank account on pretextual grounds. The National Television and Radio Corporation stopped transmitting Azattyk's radio shows on October 23, citing “a technical malfunction of the satellite receiver.”
Azattyk is an award-winning, multimedia source of independent news in Kyrgyzstan, reporting in the Kyrgyz and Russian languages. A media leader in Kyrgyzstan for 70 years, Azattyk 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.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 40 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 15 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram in 2022. 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.