BISHKEK -- The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling on Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov to reject a “false information” bill recently approved by lawmakers, saying that the proposed legislation "imperils” press freedom in the Central Asian nation.
Kyrgyz authorities “should refrain from adding expansive but poorly defined new powers to unspecified state bodies that could easily be weaponized against journalists,” CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna said in the statement on August 10.
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The country “already has civil defamation codes on its books to address issues raised by the legislation,” he said.
Parliament in late July approved the bill that civil rights organizations and media groups in the former Soviet republic say contradicts Kyrgyzstan’s constitution and the country's international commitments, and violates human rights and freedom of speech.
The bill’s author, member of parliament Gulshat Asylbaeva, has argued that it is needed to combat the widespread use of fake accounts and troll farms aimed at discrediting political actors in Kyrgyzstan.
The bill envisages the creation of a government watchdog that would "react to complaints" regarding the content of online posts within two days. The sites where the content was posted would be obliged to follow any instructions received from the watchdog within 24 hours.
Under the bill, Internet providers must register their clients in a unified identification system and provide officials with full information related to users if a court or a state organ requests such data.
The bill also stipulates that owners of websites and social-network accounts must have their personal data and electronic e-mail addresses open and accessible to everyone, while anonymous Internet users would be located and cut off.
The proposed legislation is a revised version of an earlier draft law that was returned to parliament a year ago by then-President Sooronbai Jeenbekov following mass protests.
Disputed parliamentary elections sparked more mass rallies in October 2020, leading to the resignations of the government and Jeenbekov.
Sadyr Japarov easily won a presidential election in January and has initiated many legal changes that he says are needed to create a strong central branch of government to "establish order."