Kyrgyz Parliament Suspends Accreditation Of Seven RFE/RL Correspondents

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BISHKEK — The Kyrgyz parliament has suspended the accreditation of seven RFE/RL correspondents as of November 17.

The November 16 decision by the Jogorku Kenesh (Supreme Council) — which means the journalists will not be able to report from or enter the Kyrgyz parliament — follows last month’s move by the Central Asian nation’s Culture Ministry to block the websites of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk.

In late October, Radio Azattyk’s bank account was frozen following the ministry’s decision to suspend access to the media outlet’s websites. The move came just after Kyrgyz authorities blocked Radio Azattyk’s websites for two months when the broadcaster refused to take down a video of one of its news programs that reported on clashes at the border with Tajikistan.

RFE/RL President and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Fly condemned the move to freeze Radio Azattyk’s bank account at the time.

“This escalation by Kyrgyz authorities appears to violate Kyrgyz law. We will fight this attempt to silence our journalists,” Fly said, “Radio Azattyk is a trusted source of news and should be allowed to continue to operate unimpeded.”

According to the law on bank and banking activities in Kyrgyzstan, banks can freeze accounts only after a court decision, and an official request from law enforcement cannot lead to the freezing of bank accounts.

The Kyrgyz government made the decision to block Radio Azattyk’s website on October 26 after RFE/RL refused to take down the video on the border clashes, produced by Current Time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with Voice of America. Officials claimed the segment “predominantly” took the position of the Tajik side.

The decision was based on the Law on Protection from False Information, legislation that drew widespread criticism when adopted in August last year.

In solidarity with RFE/RL, independent Kyrgyz media outlets on October 28 posted a black screen on their websites for several hours with the caption “No news today. Media under pressure in Kyrgyzstan” and refused to cover news stories about the government for the whole day.

The Kyrgyz government’s decision has also been criticized by some Kyrgyz lawmakers and rights activists who have called for the government to repeal it.

Source: Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.