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OSCE Urges Kyrgyzstan To Put RFE/RL, BBC Back On Air


RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service has been off the air in the country since October 8.

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service has been off the air in the country since October 8.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) urged Kyrgyzstan today to restore suspended broadcasts by U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the BBC.

"Both RFE/RL and BBC are reputable public-service sources of information for Kyrgyz society," the OSCE's media freedom representative, Miklos Haraszti, said in a statement. "Their suspension would be a loss to pluralism, which is a major OSCE commitment in the media field."

The 56-member OSCE is the world's largest regional security organization, known also for its role in election monitoring.

The Kyrgyz state-owned television and radio company KNTR said earlier this month it had switched off the BBC's local radio service because it failed to install required radio equipment. KNTR also said Prague-based RFE/RL owed it $57,000 in service fees.

In a statement, RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin said, "The suspension, which began on October 8, was initially portrayed as a payment dispute, but we have since traced the payments and confirmed deposit and receipt. Nine weeks have passed. Our programs remain off the air. Kyrgyz officials have refused to meet with us to resolve the situation. Frankly, we expected more from a country trying to prove its reformist credentials in the region."

KNTR head Melis Eshimkanov told Reuters today that BBC broadcasts had been restored this week after it agreed to provide KNTR with some equipment. But Harazsti said the BBC still had no long-term contract in place to secure future operations.

"I urge the authorities to renew the contracts of both RFE/RL and BBC, so that they can resume full operation in the nearest future," he said.

Eshimkanov said KNTR would hold talks with RFE/RL management within a few days.

(by Reuters)

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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