Journalists from RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, report from outside the parliament building in Bishkek in December 2020.
BISHKEK -- The Kyrgyz Culture, Information, Sports, and Youth Policy Ministry has asked the Lenin district court in Bishkek to halt the media operations of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk and officially registered as Azattyk Media.
The ministry informed RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service about the move on January 23. It remains unclear when exactly the request was made.
According to the ministry, the request was made due to Radio Azattyk's refusal to remove from the Internet a video about clashes last year along a disputed segment of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. Kyrgyz authorities blocked Radio Azattyk’s websites in Kyrgyz and Russian in late October after the media outlet refused to take down the video in question that was produced by Current Time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with Voice of America. Officials of the Central Asian nation have claimed the authors of the video "predominantly" took the position of the Tajik side.
The authorities' decision was based on the Law on Protection from False Information, legislation that drew widespread criticism when it was adopted in August 2021.
Radio Azattyk's bank account in Bishkek was frozen at the time, and in November Kyrgyz authorities suspended the accreditations of 11 RFE/RL correspondents at parliament. RFE/RL President and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Fly has rejected the government’s move, saying the broadcaster takes its commitment to balanced reporting "seriously" and that after a review of the content in question, "no violation of our standards" was found.
The Kyrgyz government's decision has been criticized by domestic and international human rights watchdogs, Kyrgyz politicians, celebrities, intellectuals, journalists, lawmakers, and rights activists, who have called for the government to repeal it. RFE/RL has appealed the move to block the sites with Bishkek's Birinchi Mai district court. The first hearing into the appeal is scheduled for January 26.