Human rights organization call for defence of independent media in Kyrgyzstan

The human rights organisation Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society called for a special commission to defend independent media and journalists.

Tair Shamshiyev

2009-03-21

KYRGYZSTAN — The savage March 3 attack on Syrgak Abdyldayev, a political correspondent for the independent newspaper Reporter Bishkek, has inflamed an already heated discussion concerning freedom of speech in Kyrgyzstan. At a meeting with the opposition Social-Democratic Party on March 11, the director of the human rights organisation Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, Dinara Oshurakhunova, called for the creation of a special commission to defend independent media and journalists.

Oshurakhunova's plan aims to defend independent media against the government. The best way to do this, she believes, is to create a commission comprised of lawmakers and NGO representatives to guarantee independence and a proper working environment for the media. Defending the initiative, Oshurakhunova said, "Journalism has become a dangerous profession, and we need to defend our media and journalists." The most unusual part of her proposal, however, is its recommendation that the government fund the commission.

"Recent attacks on journalists and the country's media are clear evidence that human rights, freedom of speech and dissent are all under assault in Kyrgyzstan," said Baktybek Beshimov, the parliamentary leader of the Social Democratic Party. Since the beginning of 2007, 21 journalists have been attacked, six newspapers were closed and five journalists and editors fled the country following personal threats, according to statistics compiled by the party. Beshimov plans to deliver a speech at the European Parliament requesting that international organisations reconsider their relations with Kyrgyzstan's leadership.

There are more than 20 professional organisations for journalists in Kyrgyzstan including two unions, one of which is independent. But lacking any real clout, they play more of an advisory than a juridical role in defending independent media and journalists.

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