A court in Kyrgyzstan has ruled to overturn a government decision to seek the closure of RFE/RL’s local affiliate, Radio Azattyk, in a development that activists will hope signals the government’s intent to ease its pressure on independent media.
Azattyk said on its website that the July 12 ruling came on the heels of a mediation process with the Culture Ministry, which sought the closure of the broadcaster in the first place.
The order for Azattyk’s shuttering was issued in January in response to what the government claimed was the outlet engaging in the dissemination of false information about violence on the Tajik border that unfolded a few months earlier.
That move was made possible by a Law on Protection from False Information that was adopted in August 2021. The loose terms of that legislation in effect allowed blocking access to a resource if it relayed the remarks of a person perceived to be making an assertion deemed false – a Tajik official in the case that led to Azattyk being shut down.
Azattyk has said that as part of a negotiated settlement with the Kyrgyz government, it has consented to make the video footage featuring that official’s remarks unavailable on RFE/RL websites.
“Content on the websites of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) media corporation is not stored indefinitely, therefore the contentious video is no longer available on the RFE/RL websites,” it wrote.
Because Azattyk was slapped with a ban across the board, its content has until now only been available to read or view via proxy resources, although that appears poised to change.
The government’s decision to backtrack will be greeted with relief by international advocacy groups, a coalition of which had ahead of the ruling expressed their alarm at the “growing pattern in Kyrgyzstan to draft and arbitrarily implement controversial and ambiguous laws that could be misused to target people and institutions exercising their rights to free expression and information.”
Ayzirek Imanaliyeva is a journalist based in Bishkek.