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CPJ urges President Jeenbekov to reject bill on manipulating information

The President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov should reject recently proposed legislation that would mark a serious step toward curtailing press freedom in the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement.

The country’s parliament held the second and third readings of proposed legislation called «On Manipulating Information» and passed it by a vote of 79 to 10. If signed by Jeenbekov, it will go into effect.

In its current form, the bill empowers authorities, without a court order, to shut down or block websites containing information deemed to be «inaccurate» or «false» and to shut down social media accounts deemed false. It also requires real-name registration for website owners and social media account owners.

The bill also requires Internet service providers to store user data, including photos, audio, and video, for up to six months and share that data with government agencies upon request. It is not clear how this would be enforced.

«The vague nature of Kyrgyzstan’s proposed legislation on media manipulation is sure to create a climate of uncertainty for journalists and promote self-censorship,» said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. «President Sooronbai Jeenbekov should reject this law unless he is intent on taking part in the kind of repression that we already see among Kyrgyzstan’s neighbors in Central Asia.»

As the organization says, the bill’s text does not provide definitions of «manipulation» or «false» information, nor does it specify the entity that will make this determination or the mechanism for shutting down or blocking websites or accounts.