U.S. lawmakers ask Kyrgyzstan president to cease media harassment

U.S. lawmakers have urged Kyrgyzstan authorities to remove restrictions placed on Radio Azattyq after the outlet reported an armed clash on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border in September 2022.

There are fresh concerns that the foreign government wants to permanently shut the media outlet after the ministry of culture prayed a court in Bishkek to terminate the outlet.

According to the ministry of culture, the report contained “ambiguous material against national interests” that breached the nation’s media policy to prevent war, violence, national and religious discrimination, and so on.

The Kyrgyzstan authorities, for two months, restricted access to the outlet’s website in October 2022 due to the report. The restriction got extended in December.

The culture ministry further froze the organisation’s bank account and insisted the report must be taken down before access could be restored.

Chairman and member of the foreign relations committee from the United States, Bob Menendez and Jim Risch, urged Sadyr Japarov, the president of Kyrgyzstan, to remove the ban that violated the right to freedom of speech.

“The decisions to block Radio Azattyk websites indefinitely and freeze the service’s bank account jeopardizes [Kyrgyzstan’s] international reputation as a beacon of free speech in Central Asia,” the senators said in a statement released Friday.

The senators urged him to “create an opportunity for independent mass media so that Kyrgyz journalists can work freely.”

Responding, Erbol Sultanbaev, the president’s media aide, said Kyrgyzstan was a democratic nation albeit with “conditions” for independent media.

“Kyrgyzstan is a free, democratic country with all the conditions for the full-fledged activity of independent media,” stated Mr Sultanbaev.

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