(Prague, Czech Republic)
Radio Free Europe's popular Kyrgyz television and radio programs have been off the air in the capital city of Bishkek since Wednesday, shortly after affiliate managers reported that they had been pressured by Kyrgyz officials.
RFE/RL's Bishkek television affiliate station "Echo of Manas" was warned by Kyrgyz authorities that they would face difficulties in renewing their broadcast license if they continued to air the Kyrgyz Service's widely viewed "Inconvenient Questions" and "Azattyk Plus" programs. Radio affiliates in Bishkek and the northern city of Naryn have also stopped carrying Kyrgyz Service programming.
"The Kyrgyz government has been hostile to freedom of the press for some time," said Jeffrey Gedmin, president of RFE/RL. "This incident is the latest effort by the government to restrict access to free, unbiased and independent news. Unfortunately, as Freedom House noted
in its most recent 'Freedom in the World' report, the situation is only getting worse."
"This incident is the latest effort by the [Kyrgyz] government to restrict access to free, unbiased and independent news."
The broadcasting of RFE/RL programs was halted just days before expected rallies and protests marking the fifth anniversary of the country's so-called Tulip Revolution.
The U.S. State Department's just released annual report on human rights in Kyrgyzstan noted that, while "the law provides for freedom of speech and of the press... the government at times restricted these rights in practice, especially through withdrawal of broadcasting rights and reportedly through intimidation of journalists." [read the Kyrgyzstan country report
RFE/RL's difficulties in Kyrgyzstan are not new. In late 2008, UTRK, Kyrgyzstan's state broadcaster, suspended Radio Azattyk programming
, calling its political content "too negative and too critical." The company later offered to resume broadcasts on condition that all programming be submitted to state authorities for prior approval. RFE/RL rejected the proposal.About RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service
Online and on the air, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service
, known locally as Radio Azattyk
, has been a consistent and dependable provider of independent information in Kyrgyzstan for more than 50 years. Today, Radio Azattyk is a trusted source within Kyrgyzstan, with its stories - both broadcast and online - regularly cited and reprinted by local and regional media.