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Kyrgyz President Signs Controversial 'False Information' Bill Into Law


Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov has signed into law the controversial “false information” bill that many domestic and international rights groups have harshly criticized, saying the legislation could be used to suppress press freedoms in the Central Asian nation.

Japarov's press service said that the president signed the bill on August 24. The bill was approved by lawmakers in late July.

Civil rights organizations and media groups in the former Soviet republic have said the legislation 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 social media accounts and troll farms that put out disinformation 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 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.

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."

Some of his critics have accused him of concentrating power to enable him to run the country as an autocrat.

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