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HRW: Kyrgyzstan should uphold media freedom at all times

Kyrgyzstan should uphold media freedom at all times, and particularly during election seasons, but pressure on media groups is growing in the country. Human Rights Watch stated.

The Kyrgyzstan's General Prosecutor has brought a series of cases against prominent local media outlets that have been critical of the government. The outlets are accused of discrediting the honor and dignity of the president and spreading false information.

The actions violate standards on freedom of expression, and the authorities should promptly drop the lawsuits.

Human Rights Watch

"Kyrgyzstan's authorities should understand the role of independent media and what it means to respect freedom of expression and drop these lawsuits," said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. «Kyrgyzstan has a dynamic media landscape, which should be allowed to flourish, and laws that allow these kinds of prosecutions should be repealed.»

Article 4 of the law on «Guarantees of the activities of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic» obliges the prosecutor general to take legal action on behalf of the president if disseminated information has defamed the president’s honor and dignity. Laws that provide for offenses and penalties for those who criticize public figures, including figures such as the president, on the basis that it is considered insulting, are not compatible with freedom of expression standards under international law, and in particular with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Kyrgyzstan is a party.

Kyrgyzstan should uphold media freedom at all times, and particularly during election seasons

Hugh Williamson

«Invoking inappropriate 'insult' laws and targeting critical media sends the wrong message to the country’s international partners at a time when respect for international human rights standards is paramount," the human rights defender believes.