Foreign Policy Blogs

Media Clamp Down in Kyrgyzstan

In early December, Kyrgyzstan's state radio took off the air US-funded Radio Free Europe ‘Radio Azattyk’ without providing any explanation. It has also been reported that BBC programming was also taken off the air. It appears that the Kyrgyz state is clenching a vice on domestic and international media outlets, forcing its citizens to only listen and hear news from state-controlled sources. If this is the case, then one can assume that the Kyrgyz state feels a bit threatened by the economic downturn's effect on the already poverty-stricken Kyrgyz population.

The US State Department urged 'the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic to work with RFE/RL to again permit broadcast of these programs as soon as possible.’ Local opposition party leader Omurbek Tekebayev stated that this was part of a broader effort by the government to clamp down on independent media. Tekebayev also had this to say about the importance of RFE's Radio Azattyk:

“Radio Azattyk's news coverage has made it one of the most influential media concerns in Kyrgyzstan, as people in the regions always tune it to learn about the latest and most objective news on developments in the country.”

This is indeed disturbing and disheartening news and makes one feel more skeptical about the region's progress towards a free and objective media. Outside groups are trying to open up the Central Asian government's media outlets, but little has been accomplished. In October the European Commission held a conference about liberalizing the media with Uzbek officials, but as the Institute for War & Peace Reporting asserted, the Uzbek officials were just there to listen and then continue their current oppression of independent media outlets and journalists. The OSCE also held a Media Conference in Almaty, involving governmental officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, media professionals, and prominent regional experts, which was designed to promote media freedom and plurality in these participating states. This conference's goals were worthy, but I fear that positive benefits stemming from it will be mild. In fact, the conference ended with calls for the CA states to increase the number of broadcasting channels. In light of Kyrgyzstan's recent actions, this seemed sadly ironic to me.

 

Author

Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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