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Azattyk case: Erbol Sultanbaev comments on U.S. Department of State’s statement

Spokesman for the President of Kyrgyzstan Erbol Sultanbaev commented on his Facebook page on the statement by the U.S. Department of State on the termination of the activities of Azattyk Media.

According to him, the authorities have familiarized themselves with the relevant statements of the head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives of the Congress, as well as the U.S. Department of State.

«Obviously, they (the Department of State — Note of 24.kg news agency) made their statements not being aware of the real situation, since they themselves are far from Kyrgyzstan. The Ministry of Culture acted within its powers provided by law for spreading false information about developments at the border. Then it applied to the court, which in the course of the proceedings made the relevant decision. The judiciary in our country is independent and makes its own decisions. No one has the right to interfere with their work. Kyrgyzstan is an open and free republic. We have no restrictions on freedom of speech and the media. In our country, every citizen has the right to openly express his or her opinion and uses this right to the full. All organizations have the same rights. The only condition for everyone is to conduct their activities in strict accordance with the law. Therefore, we consider these statements inappropriate and unfounded and urge not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic,» Erbol Sultanbaev said.

Earlier, the U.S. Department of State expressed concern about the court decision to terminate the activities of Azattyk Media as a media outlet. The Department called for a fair and thorough judicial review for any appeal.

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.