Human Lives Human Rights: A court in Kyrgyzstan approved a Ministry of Culture request to close down Radio Azattyk, the national bureau of the international broadcasting corporation Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), for purported violation of media regulations.
The closure of Radio Azattyk is not only an act of censorship targeting one media outlet; it is a major blow to freedom of expression in the country. The Kyrgyzstani authorities have taken a further step towards silencing critical coverage of events in the country and muzzling journalists.
The allegation made by the Kyrgyzstani authorities, that a video published by Radio Azattyk propagated hatred, is not only false but a manifest pretense. The authorities have been seeking any excuse to shut down an independent media voice.
Rights groups have called on the country’s authorities to withdraw their order to shut down Radio Azattyk altogether, stop the harassment and intimidation of journalists and government critics, and fully respect, protect and facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of expression for all media in Kyrgyzstan.
On 27 April, the Lenin District Court of Bishkek, the Kyrgyzstani capital, granted the request of the Ministry of Culture, Information, Sport and Youth to terminate Radio Azattyk’s operations.
The reason for the lawsuit was reportedly the publication on Radio Azattyk’s social media channels of a video produced by the radio’s sister organization, Current Time TV, which covered the September 2022 border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The Kyrgyzstani authorities claimed that the video violated the law “On the Mass Media,” which forbids “propaganda of war, violence and cruelty, national, religious exclusivity and intolerance to other peoples and nations,” and demanded that it be removed.
In October 2022, access to Radio Azattyk’s website was “temporarily” blocked while its bank accounts were frozen, allegedly under national money laundering legislation. In December, the website ban was declared “indefinite” by the authorities.
Over the past year, government critics, journalists and other media workers have been repeatedly harassed in Kyrgyzstan.
On 23 November, Bolot Temirov, the founder of the investigative project Temirov Live, was stripped of his Kyrgyz citizenship and forcibly deported to Moscow following his criticism of the authorities.