Kyrgyzstan: End crackdown on free media

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan must immediately reverse unfounded closure of independent media outlet Next TV and free or otherwise credibly charge its director Taalaibek Duishenbiev, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said in a statement today.

On March 3 this year, officers from the Kyrgyzstani security services detained Next TV director Taalaibek Duishenbiev on charges of incitement of ethnic discord. On the same day, authorities sealed off Next TV’s office premises, and ordered its radio and TV channels closed down, in what appears to be retaliation for legitimate journalistic work.

Staff members of Next TV told the Norwegian Helsinki Committee that the crackdown took place the day after the channel published a post on its Instagram account claiming that Kyrgyzstan may assist Russia in its ongoing war in Ukraine. In the Instagram post, Next TV quotes a Ukrainian news source, “Ukraina Seychas” alleging that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in secret talks had expressed willingness to contribute to the war in Ukraine. In the original story, the Ukrainian source bases its claims on an alleged quote from a former head of the Kazakhstani security service.

Based on this Instagram post, the Kyrgyzstani authorities then raised charges under article 330.2 of the Criminal Code against Next Tv director Taalaibek Duishenbiev. The criminal charges carry punishment of five to seven years’ imprisonment. Duishenbiev is currently detained until May 3, while the investigation is ongoing.

– Raising criminal charges against media workers in retaliation for legitimate journalistic activities is an unacceptable attack on freedom of the press in Kyrgyzstan. We demand that Kyrgyzstani authorities immediately drop the charges, release Duishenbiev, and reverse the closure of Next TV, says Geir Hønneland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

– With Russia’s war in Ukraine and its massive propaganda efforts targeting audiences home and abroad, societies around the globe need free and independent reporting now more than ever, he adds.

Next TV offices sealed off by the security services.

In a recent development, today, on April 1, the Kyrgyzstani security services, colloquially known by its Russian-language acronym “GKNB”, summoned for questioning Next TV social media manager Aysuluu Kudayberdieva and Azat Ravshan – the son of Next TV-owner Ravshan Djeyenbekov. The two were ostensibly summoned as witnesses in the ongoing investigation. Next TV owner Djeyenbekov told the Norwegian Helsinki Committee that the questioning of these two should be understood as an attempt to intimate members of the free press across Kyrgyzstan. At the time this statement was issued, the two had not yet been released from questioning.

NEXT TV is an independent media outlet operating in Kyrgyzstan since 2003. It is known for providing the populace of Kyrgyzstan with independent reporting and alternative viewpoints in both Kyrgyz and Russian language. They regularly report on politics, corruption, human rights and democracy.

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