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OSCE: Manipulation of Information law may result in media freedom restrictions

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, expressed his concern about the recently passed law on the Manipulation of Information in Kyrgyzstan.

According to him, this document may result in undue restrictions to freedom of media.

«I share the concern of the authorities to combat the dissemination of false information related to the current health crisis. However, vague legal definitions will not provide media and social media users with the necessary legal certainty in order to foresee the consequences of their activities,» he said.

Furthermore, the regulation of online content by an ‘authorized state body’ may, in the absence of a clear mechanism and due process, seriously restrict freedom of expression.

Harlem Désir

«My Office is therefore preparing a review of the law, which I will make available to the authorities,» Désir added.

The Representative recalled the joint statement, published on 19 March, together with David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Edison Lanza, IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, on the COVID-19 related legislations affecting freedom of expression, which emphasized that: «Human health depends not only on readily accessible health care. It also depends on access to accurate information about the nature of the threats and the means to protect oneself, one’s family, and one’s community».

The Representative and the two Special Rapporteurs also stated that: "The right of access to information means that governments must be making exceptional efforts to protect the work of journalists. Journalism serves a crucial function at a moment of public health emergency, particularly when it aims to inform the public of critical information and monitors government actions.

Recall, deputies of the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan approved the resonant document in the second and third readings on June 26. At least 79 members of the Parliament voted for it. Domestic and international human rights organizations urge the President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to veto the bill.

A rally #REaction 3.0 took place in Bishkek the day before. About 500 people demanded from the president to veto the bill on manipulating information. The protesters also demanded from the initiator of the document, Gulshat Asylbaeva, to terminate her deputy powers and give up her seat.