Authorities in Kyrgyzstan have ordered the deportation of the Central Asia correspondent for Agence-France Presse, Chris Rickleton.
Rickleton told EurasiaNet.org that he had his passport taken away by border officials after flying into Manas international airport on the morning of December 9 and that he was being informed he would have to leave on the following flight to Dubai.
The reporter, who has previously contributed to EurasiaNet.org, has been based in Kyrgyzstan for eight years. He lives in Bishkek with his wife and young daughter, who are both Kyrgyz nationals.
Since joining Agence-France Presse in 2015, Rickleton has repeatedly been denied long-term accreditation by Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry. Officials have never provided any explanation for the refusal, but Rickleton said he has been summoned to the offices of the State Committee for National Security, the successor agency to the KGB, on two occasions while seeking the required paperwork.
Writing in a letter on on Facebook to the recently elected President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, Rickleton appealed for the deportation order against to be overturned.
“I am … aware that being a guest is a privilege that can be revoked at any opportunity by the host. If that is the case on this occasion, I kindly request that you restore it in the near future, so that I can return to live with my family in the country I love,” Rickleton wrote.
Kyrgyzstan has routinely resorted to the practise of denying access to and deporting foreign reporters and rights activists.
Earlier this year, in March, Grigory Mikhailov, an editor with Regnum news website, was expelled over what the government claimed was his violation of migration law.
In March 2015, US freelance journalist Umar Farooq was detained by the security services while reporting on religious affairs in the south of the country and later made to leave the country.
Later that same year, immigration officials issued a refusal-of-order notice against Human Rights Watch researcher Mihra Rittmann, who remains barred from traveling to Kyrgyzstan to this day.
Although Kyrgyzstan has long been seen as a rare haven in the region in which to practice independent journalism, that reputation has been severely tarnished by expulsion orders like those and the mounting pressure being put on local media outlets.
One particularly feisty website, Zanoza.kg, has been hit this year by crippling lawsuits filed against them by the General Prosecutor’s Office. The news outlet was accused of damaging the reputation of the former president, Almazbek Atambayev, who left office last month.