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Watchdogs Call For Safe Conditions For Reporters Covering Unrest In Kyrgyzstan

A journalist with RFE/RL's Radio Azattyk was threatened at a meeting held during unrest in Kyrgyzstan on October 9, 2020.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on the Kyrgyz authorities and opposition groups to guarantee a safe environment for journalists covering the postelection unrest in Kyrgyzstan after several were attacked or obstructed.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog said in a statement on October 9 it had registered at least seven incidents over the previous days in which reporters were targeted by member of the security forces and protesters, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalists.

“Journalists must not become scapegoats for this post-electoral unrest,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

Unrest has gripped Kyrgyzstan since a disputed parliamentary election on October 4 whose results have been annulled by the Central Asian country’s Central Election Commission.

Several RFE/RL journalists have been attacked by both police and protesters as they were reporting live from demonstrations in the capital, Bishkek, and the cities of Talas and Osh.

RSF cited an incident in which a police officer confiscated the phone of a reporter for the independent online news agency as he was providing live coverage of the clashes between protesters and security forces.

According to Cavelier, the authorities should open investigations into each reported attack on a journalist and make “every effort” to shed light on the attacks.

On October 6, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also called on the Kyrgyz authorities to create safe conditions for members of the press covering the postelection unrest, saying independent news “is essential to the public during these chaotic and quickly moving events.”

It noted that several journalists were also attacked while covering the vote.

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