Last Updated: Friday, 26 December 2014, 13:50 GMT

Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Kyrgyzstan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Kyrgyzstan, February 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5650ac.html [accessed 26 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Although many observers consider Kyrgyzstan's president Askar Akayev to be the most democratic leader of the newly independent Central Asian states, he compromised his reputation for liberalism in 1996 when his government replaced the heads of major news organizations by decree, continued to harass the only remaining independent newspaper, Res Publika, and sentenced one of its journalists to jail for "defamation" of the president. Rysbek Omurzakov of Res Publika had been charged with insulting the president and with "defamation in printed form combined with commission of a crime against the state" for his political leaflets, which he had distributed at a protest rally. The same charges have been used in the past to harass other reporters and political activists.

In October, Uchkun, the state publishing house, refused to print an edition of Res Publika, ostensibly because of an outstanding debt. Yet Kyrgyzstan's leading government newspaper had a far greater debt and continued to print. The stalwart Res Publika was already operating under duress, managing to put out issues throughout 1996, even though its top editors in 1995 had lost a libel suit brought by President Akayev, resulting in their suspension from practicing journalism for 18 months.

Akayev in March appointed a former Communist Party ideological secretary to head Kyrgyz State Radio and Television. Given the small circulation of even state-owned newspapers, most people rely on government-sponsored television for their news.

The editors at the government's main newspaper, Slovo Kyrgyzstana, including editor in chief Alexander Malevanny, lost their jobs after they attempted to establish an independent newspaper, which the government refused to register.

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