Kyrgyzstan: “Political Reporting is Not a Crime”—Watchdog
UPDATE: Unfortunately, after reading this blog, many readers from Kyrgyzstan have come to the conclusion that EurasiaNet is somehow supportive of Vladimir Farafonov. In fact, EurasiaNet has never endorsed any of Farafonov’s writing, which is, as our readers rightly point out, often offensive and provocative. In reporting on this case, we have documented the concerns of rights activists and pointed out the inconsistencies in Kyrgyzstan’s application of certain laws. Considering the weakness of the country’s legal system it is unsurprising, though unfortunate, that many Kyrgyzstanis have little patience for arguments in support of due process. On March 14, EurasiaNet published a story covering the Farafonov case in greater detail than in this original blog entry. --DT
Another journalist in Kyrgyzstan is facing what the Committee to Protect Journalists calls “politically motivated extremism charges.”
Vladimir Farafonov, an ethnic Russian from Kyrgyzstan, seems to have angered prosecutors and the state security services (the GKNB or KNB) by highlighting rising pro-Kyrgyz nationalism and lamenting the status of the ethnic Russian minority in the former Soviet republic. As we reported last week, such rules are selectively applied and have not targeted the Kyrgyz-language publications that have called on minority Uzbeks to leave and even tried to blame Kyrgyzstan's miniscule population of Jews for the country's suffering. The trial is scheduled to begin today.
From CPJ’s February 29 statement:
Farafonov denied the accusations, and said he was being prosecuted in retaliation for his journalism, regional press reports said. He had written a series of analytical articles for the website of the Moscow-based foundation Russkoye Yedinstvo (Russian Unity), and for regional news websites CentrAsia, NewsAsia, and Parus, according to Ferghana News. In his articles, the journalist criticized Kyrgyz politics and the spread of nationalism in the Kyrgyz-language media, and commented on the potential outcomes of the October 2011 presidential vote on the lives of ethnic minorities, including Russians, in Kyrgyzstan, news reports said.
KNB spokesperson Nurlan Toktaliyev told the independent news website 24.kg that the KNB had contacted experts from the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, as well as Internet users, and asked them to review the journalist's articles. The indictment was based on their review, news reports said. Kyrgyz ombudsman, Tursunbek Akun, called the charges unfair, and told 24.kg that the journalist had a constitutional right to express his opinion.
"This is a deeply sinister case where the secret police can decide what a journalist can and cannot write," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney.
Last week, authorities in Kyrgyzstan blocked the independent news website Fergananews.com (formerly Ferghana.ru) some eight months after a controversial parliament resolution said the outlet “ignites ethnic hatred.” Reporters Without Borders called the move “absurd and outrageous” and “a major step backwards for a country that aspires to be ‘Central Asia’s first parliamentary democracy.'”
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.