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Journalists with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service received several awards in the first months of 2016 for outstanding human rights and public service reporting.

Three journalists from RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, won the 2015 "Access to Justice" contest organized by Kyrgyzstan’s Public Union of Journalists and the United Nations Development Program.

The competition highlights the theme of access to justice for individuals with disabilities, children, rural women, youth at risk, and ethnic minorities. Adilet Bektursunov won first place in the “Best Stuff on TV” category, Ulan Egizbaev won second place for “Best Materials Published on the Internet,” and Sabyr Abdymomunov received a promotional jury prize.

Bektursunov’s report, “Luli -- The Fate of the Kyrgyz Roma,” gives viewers an inside look into the lives of the Luli, the gypsies of southern Kyrgyzstan. Egizbaev was awarded for three investigative works investigating human rights: “Are human rights defenders ‘foreign agents’?” “Shahida Spent Five Years in Prison, Lost Her Health, Then Was Acquitted,” and “Watch This Disabled Boy’s World Change in Two Minutes.” Abdymomunov won the prize for his radio documentaries about ethnic Kyrgyz who were relocated from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to their historical homeland, but still rejected by local society.

“All these awards are well-deserved by our journalists who are very dedicated to their profession, who really cover unique and very important stories day by day. Their stories are very important, because they talk to neglected or ignored people, they find stories which are hidden from mainstream agenda,” said Venera Djumataeva, director of the Kyrgyz Service.

“Adilet, Ulanbek and Sabyr travel to the most remote places in Kyrgyzstan if they see a unique story, and only if they feel that they can help those people through their stories,” she said.

Each of the three journalists was awarded a certificate and a monetary prize. More than 180 journalists applied to the competition and representatives of 42 media organizations attended.

The awards were among several marking Radio Azattyk’s journalistic excellence in 2016. Radio Azattyk correspondent Jenish Aidarov was voted “Best Journalist in the Region” in January through a popular SMS vote organized by the local Kyrgyz channel Batken TV. Aidarov was also awarded the certificate "The city of Batken for 15 years" for coverage of events that contributed to the city’s development. Aidarov has been a correspondent for Radio Azattyk since 2008.

RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service is a leading source of independent news and information for its audiences. It was recognized as the country’s most reliable information source on radio in a February 2015 Baltic Surveys poll. According to a November 2014 Gallup survey, it reaches more than 36 percent of the population every week via TV, radio, and digital platforms.

-- Elissa Nunez