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Kyrgyz Journalists Protest Colleague's Dismissal

Orunbekov's supporters demonstrate in downtown Bishkek on 30 January (RFE/RL) 30 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- More than 50 Kyrgyz journalists rallied in front of the main government building in Bishkek today in support of the dismissed editor-in-chief of a government-funded national newspaper, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

Bakyt Orunbekov was sacked from his post at the Kyrgyz-language "Kyrgyz tuusu" (Kyrgyzstan's Flag) on 27 January.

During the rally, the editor-in-chief of the independent "Tribuna" newspaper, Ryzbek Omurzakov, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that Orunbekov was dismissed because he was seeking to make the newspaper more independent.

"In reality, reforms at 'Kyrgyz tuusu' started when Bakyt Orunbekov came [to serve as editor-in-chief]," Omurzakov said. "The newspaper then started covering polar, diametrically opposed views from both sides and raising very hard problems."

Orunbekov had been appointed as editor-in-chief following the ousting of former President Askar Akaev's long-standing administration in March.

He has been replaced by Jediger Saalaev, the head of the public-relations department of the government's press service.

"A newspaper that belongs to the government should not criticize the government," Saalaev told RFE/RL. "It should instead carry out government policy."

He added that articles published in the newspaper had been one-sided and critical of the government in a way that was not constructive.

Critics of Omurzakov's dismissal counter that the newspaper is a public entity and therefore should be allowed to reflect greater diversity in its articles and editorials.