WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy announced in a Facebook post it was blocking RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service websites for two months after RFE/RL refused to remove a Current Time Asia report about the recent Kyrgyz-Tajik conflict. These actions are the latest in a series emblematic of a deteriorating media climate in the country. They follow a recent protest outside RFE/RL’s Bishkek bureau that called on authorities to close the Service and other independent local outlets; and proposed legislation that would further limit media freedom.
In a letter dated October 24, the Ministry of Culture gave RFE/RL 24 hours to remove the Current Time Asia report, citing the controversial law on protection against false information adopted in July 2021.
“RFE/RL takes our commitment to balanced reporting seriously. We have reviewed the content in question and find no violation of our standards,” said RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “We will not succumb to pressure to remove balanced reporting from our sites, be it from the Kremlin or the Kyrgyz government. Threatening journalists and trying to silence independent media are authoritarian tactics that only serve to undermine Kyrgyz democracy. We will be appealing this decision."
With the support of the Open Technology Fund, RFE/RL is employing state of the art circumvention technologies that will allow continued access to independent media in Kyrgyzstan by promoting the use of free and effective VPNs, and to TOR for safe anonymous browsing. RFE/RL is also using community messaging through Telegram. Combined, these tools are successfully allowing audiences - both new and loyal users - to access factual, local information.
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 Service saw 22 million combined website visits, over 112 million video views on YouTube, and millions more on other social media platforms.
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.