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BISHKEK -- A group of civil rights activists rallied in front of the Kyrgyz parliament building to protest a proposal to ban foreign individuals and organizations from owning and establishing media outlets in the country.

About a dozen activists held placards on June 16 saying: "Lawmaker, hands off Radio Azattyk!" which is a reference to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.

The rally was held as lawmakers began discussion of a June 10 proposal by a group of parliament members to introduce the amendments to the mass-media law.

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, which has a bureau in Bishkek, has been a major independent source of information in the Central Asian country for decades and is also broadcast by the country's main state broadcaster.

Well-known civil rights activist Rita Karasartova said at the rally that "the hastily proposed bill's major goal is to curb the flow of independent and timely information in Kyrgyzstan."

"Radio Azattyk has been the only source of trustworthy information that civil rights activists could refer to when there were obstacles at state-controlled media platforms," Karasartova said.

Kyrgyz lawmakers decided to postpone debate on the bill until next week.

A screen grab of two men being arrested outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow after they placed a sign at a makeshift shrine to the victims of a mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Florida.

A gay couple has unexpectedly landed in hot water with Russian authorities after attempting to pay tribute to the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Feliks Glyukman and Islam Abdullabekov were detained by police when they showed up at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on June 13 with flowers, candles, and a large sign saying "Love wins."

If charged, they face up to 10 days behind bars and a minimum fine of 20,000 rubles ($303) for allegedly holding an unsanctioned picket.

"I think it’s a disgrace, to put it mildly," Glyukman, a 24-year-old art critic, told RFE/RL.

Glyukman said he and Abdullabekov, a 21-year-old social-media manager, came to the makeshift memorial outside the embassy to express their condolences, not rally for gay rights.

"We took our placard out of a bag and walked up to the memorial, we wanted to put it on the ground along with flowers and candles," he said. "But when we put the placard down a police officer came up, picked it up, and tried to return it to me. One of his colleagues, a young woman, joined him. When we refused to leave, they grabbed us by the arm and took us to their vehicle."

Footage of the detention captured by correspondent from RFE/RL’s Russian Service shows the young men getting into a police car.

WATCH: Men Arrested In Moscow After Orlando Tribute

Men Arrested While Paying Respects To Orlando Victims In Moscow
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Glyukman said they were then taken to a police station, questioned, and locked up. He said police officers made several references to their sexual orientation and accused them of holding a picket without official permission.

They were released three hours later after their lawyer, Sergei Panchenko, intervened.

Panchenko said their detention was illegal and dismissed the accusations leveled against the pair as unfounded. "There was no picket, no rally, no protest," he said. "They didn’t exhibit this sign, they didn’t brandish it or stand with it. They just came and laid it on the ground."

Mumin Shakirov, one of the RFE/RL journalists who witnessed the incident, said police had been under persistent pressure from several antigay activists to remove LGBT symbols from the memorial.

"Before this, the atmosphere was already tense due to presence of [Russian] Orthodox activists," he said. "There were three of them, they were demanding that the rainbow flag that lay among the flowers be removed."

Although Glyukman and Abdullabekov have not been charged under the so-called gay "propaganda" law, their detention has raised suspicion that police sought to preempt a potential protest by members of Russia's beleaguered lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

A controversial law signed by President Vladimir Putin in 2013 bans the dissemination of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors. Activists say its adoption has sparked a rise in violence and harassment of LGBT people across the country.

"These actions do not simply target citizens, they directly target the LGBT community," Panchenko said. "We hope that authorities will close this shameful case."

Along with expressions of grief, the Orlando shooting has also generated a barrage of homophobic comments in Russia.

On June 12, a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse nightclub in the Florida city in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

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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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