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Freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan threatened

«Freedom of expression is threatened in Kyrgyzstan. The authorities should stop interfering with professional activities of reporters and seeking to censor online content," statement of "School of Peacemaking and Media Technologies in Central Asia" NGO says.

It is noted that attempts to suppress freedom of expression continue to be carried out through monitoring of users who criticize the authorities on the Internet since the beginning of 2017 and till now in Kyrgyzstan. Online publications under various pretexts are trying to prohibit publication of materials.

Last Saturday, March 11, official website of the President published a statement by the head of state accusing some «allegedly independent journalists, media and politicians» who «are throwing mud at the people and the President who are not welcome to them," trying to «destabilize the situation ahead of the presidential elections» . The statement says that since the last summer, «the campaign of lies, slander and defamation has intensified in separate media and social networks.»

The statement did not contain any specific facts, names of the media, journalists and other evidence.

The statement was published five days after the Kyrgyz Prosecutor General’s Office filed several lawsuits against Internet portals Zanoza.kg and Azattyk. The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Kyrgyz Republic accused them of covering the press conference of Ata Meken’s lawyers and of reprinting the article from the Turkish edition Haberler.

Almost simultaneously, on March 9, the Social Democratic Party (SDPK) filed a lawsuit to protect the business reputation against 24.kg news agency, which published an article entitled «Regions showed the teeth to the party of power," in which activist Rita Karasartova spoke critically about the party of power.

On the eve of presidential elections, political discussions and a war of compromising materials are intensifying in local media. However, the authorities should not forget that journalists fulfill their professional duty and are not to blame for what is happening around them.

«It is necessary to respect the rights of journalists to decide how to convey the information to the audience in the best way, especially when it comes to criticism of the authorities or coverage of events involving the opponents of the regime. The authorities of Kyrgyzstan should adequately react to criticism and allow the media, journalists and content creators on the Internet to cover any events without fear of repressive measures. Open debate, constructive dialogue and pluralism are the best tools for maintaining the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of information. Lawsuits, pre-trial charges, suppression of criticism for the purpose of restricting awareness are unacceptable," the statement says.

«On the other hand, journalists and publications should be responsible, verifying information and having clear arguments in defense of its objectivity," the NGO adds.