Activists protest bill banning foreign media ownership in Kyrgyzstan

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BISHKEK (TCA) — A group of civil rights activists rallied in front of the Kyrgyz parliament building to protest a proposal to ban foreign individuals and organizations from owning and establishing media outlets in the country, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

About a dozen activists held placards on June 16 saying: “Lawmaker, hands off Radio Azattyk!” which is a reference to RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service.

The rally was held as lawmakers began discussion of a June 10 proposal by a group of parliament members to introduce the amendments to the mass-media law.

RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, which has a bureau in Bishkek, has been a major independent source of information in Kyrgyzstan for decades and is also broadcast by the country’s main state broadcaster.

Well-known civil rights activist Rita Karasartova said at the rally that “the hastily proposed bill’s major goal is to curb the flow of independent and timely information in Kyrgyzstan.”

“Radio Azattyk has been the only source of trustworthy information that civil rights activists could refer to when there were obstacles at state-controlled media platforms,” Karasartova said.

Kyrgyz lawmakers decided to postpone debate on the bill until next week.

In May, the parliament of Kyrgyzstan rejected a draft law on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive foreign funding.

The proposed legislation had been denounced by rights activists as discriminatory and contrary to international human rights standards.

The Kyrgyz public and international organizations had repeatedly asked the parliament and president of Kyrgyzstan to reject the controversial law, as it would affect practically all Kyrgyz NGOs because they are all dependent on foreign grants.

Sergey Kwan

TCA