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IPHR: Court decision to close down Azattyk should be reversed

Court decision to close down the Kyrgyz service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, radio Azattyk dealt a serious blow to media freedom in Kyrgyzstan and should be reversed. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) said in a statement.

As the human rights activists note, this decision is the most recent in a series of troubling developments undermining freedom of expression and access to information in the country and should be strongly and unequivocally condemned by the international community.

On April 27 the judge of the Leninsky District Court of Bishkek Cholpon Karimbaeva satisfied the claim of the Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy on the closure of Azattyk Media.

At the end of October, the Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy of Kyrgyzstan announced that it had suspended the operation of Radio Azattyk website for two months. The ministry noted that on September 16, the Current Time resource (subordinate structure of Azattyk Media) published a video entitled «Heavy fighting on the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan», in which «elements of hate speech, unconfirmed information about the alleged attack by the Kyrgyz side on Tajikistan were used, as well as information that aggravates the situation in society and causes hatred, discrimination and division among citizens when covering events in Batken region.»

As the organization stresses, the decision to close down radio Azattyk comes at a time when freedom of expression is under serious attack in Kyrgyzstan: several pieces of restrictive draft legislation have been initiated in recent months, a number of spurious criminal cases have been opened against journalists, bloggers and other government critics, and independent media outlets have been subjected to increasing pressure.

We call on Kyrgyzstan’s international partners to speak out against this alarming trend and make it clear to the government that a failure to change course and abide by international standards protecting the right to freedom of expression and other fundamental rights will negatively affect relations with Kyrgyzstan.

International Partnership for Human Rights