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U.S. Department of State: Closure of Azattyk further curtails media freedom

The United States is deeply concerned by a Kyrgyz court’s decision to terminate, as a media outlet, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s local outlet Azattyk. Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State Matthew Miller posted the statement on Twitter.

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.»

Kyrgyzstan’s media community has expressed its concern over the Kyrgyz government’s continued harassment of independent journalists and attempts to restrict media freedom, saying that the ministry should withdraw the lawsuit.

As the human rights activists note, Kyrgyz authorities have recently increased efforts to control and censor mass media amid a continued crackdown on freedom of expression and civil society.