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RSF: Aprel TV channel’s forced closure deals blow to media pluralism

An international non-profit organization Reporters Without Borders that advocates for the rights and interests of journalists regards the closure of a Kyrgyz opposition Aprel TV channel, owned by the former President Almazbek Atambayev, as a press freedom violation and calls on the authorities to allow it to resume broadcasting. Statement of the organization says.

The authorities claim that Aprel TV’s closure was just one of a series of measures taken to freeze the assets of Atambayev, who was arrested on 8 August on corruption charges. The Culture Ministry insists that the TV channel’s closure has nothing to do with its journalistic content or its criticism of the current government.

A joint statement by a dozen of Kyrgyz associations, media outlets and experts has described the closure as a “fatal error,” pointing out that “the ability to read or listen to news from any source whatsoever” was one of the leading gains of the 2005 and 2010 revolutions. Kyrgyz media pluralism “has always distinguished this country from its neighbors and has given it a higher ranking in international indexes than the rest of Central Asia,” the statement added.

“The investigation into Almazbek Atambayev’s assets cannot be used to justify a violation of press freedom of this kind, especially as Aprel TV is not accused of breaking the law,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“We urge the authorities to rescind this disproportionate measure and to protect media pluralism,” he added.