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RSF Warns Of Harassment Of Independent Media In Kyrgyzstan

Some 250 opposition supporters gathered in Bishkek on March 15 to protest the crackdown on U.S.-funded media.

Some 250 opposition supporters gathered in Bishkek on March 15 to protest the crackdown on U.S.-funded media.

The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it is "dismayed" at the "unprecedented wave of harassment" directed toward independent and opposition news media in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan is currently preparing for the fifth anniversary of the so-called Tulip Revolution that ousted President Askar Akayev.

RSF noted that leading independent news websites and the Kyrgyz-language radio and TV broadcasts of RFE/RL have been intermittently inaccessible for the past week. Local broadcasters that normally retransmit the programs were forced to stop on March 10.

In addition, Kyrgyz Internet users have been unable to access three leading news and information portals since March 9. They are,, and, whose editor, Gennady Pavlyuk, was murdered last December.

Retransmission of the BBC's news programs was suspended by state broadcaster NTRK on March 15, ostensibly for technical reasons.

All these media had reported that an arrest warrant was issued in Italy for Yevgeny Gurevich, a businessman close to President Kurmanbek Bakiev's inner circle, on suspicion of ties to the mafia. The opposition responded by calling for the resignation of Bakiev and his son Maksim, who is a business associate of Gurevich.

The opposition press has been targeted for publicizing those calls for President Bakiev's resignation.

"Press freedom violations seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity," Reporters Without Borders said. "By harassing independent and opposition media and allowing those responsible for physical attacks on journalists to go unpunished, the authorities are assuming a decisive share of the blame for the extremely worrying deterioration in the situation."

The press freedom organization added: "We urge the president's office to quickly calm down and stop making the media suffer because of its paranoia. We also call on Kyrgyzstan's international partners, especially the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to remind the authorities of the undertakings they have given to respect press freedom."

The media crackdown was one of the grievances aired by opposition supporters who rallied in Bishkek on March 17.

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