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Kyrgyzstan: Stop harassment of free media and journalists

April 06, 2022

On March 3, 2022, Kyrgyz secur­ity ser­vice officers detained Taalaibek Duishen­bi­yev, dir­ect­or of Next TV, on charges of incit­ing eth­nic hatred. On the same day, the author­it­ies sealed the premises of the Next TV, and banned its radio and tele­vi­sion broadcasting.

The door to NEXT TV premised has been sealed by Kyrgyz Secur­ity Ser­vice (GKNB)

Ravshan Jeen­bekov, the founder of Next TV told Free­dom for Euras­ia that the new per­se­cu­tion began after the pub­lic­a­tion on Ins­tagram of a post in which it was repor­ted that Kyrgyz­stan expressed its read­i­ness to provide mil­it­ary assist­ance to Rus­sia in Ukraine. In a mes­sage on Ins­tagram,  Next TV quotes the former head of the Nation­al Secur­ity Com­mit­tee Kaza­kh­stan A. Musayev, with ref­er­ence to the Ukrain­i­an news out­let Ukraine Now, which pub­lished the former head of the Kaza­kh spe­cial ser­vices comment.

This Ins­tagram post was used by Kyrgyz author­it­ies as pre­text for press­ing charges against Next TV dir­ect­or Taalaibek Duishen­bi­yev under Art­icle 330.2 of the Crim­in­al Code (Incite­ment of racial, eth­nic, nation­al, reli­gious inter­re­gion­al hatred (dis­cord)). The crim­in­al case provides for pun­ish­ment from five to sev­en years of impris­on­ment. Cur­rently, Duishen­bi­yev is detained until May 03, 2022.

March 22, 2022, the pro­sec­utor’s office provided rep­res­ent­at­ives of Next TV with a copy of the decree signed by the Deputy Pro­sec­utor Gen­er­al K. Tok­tak­un­ov in which the post was recog­nized as extremist.

In recent months, Kyrgyz­stan has been engaged in intens­ive prac­tice of ini­ti­at­ing crim­in­al cases against media work­ers and encroach­ing on press free­dom. On Janu­ary 22, 2022, journ­al­ists Bolot Temirov and akyn impro­viser Bolot Naz­arov were arres­ted and har­assed.

On Feb­ru­ary 01, 2022, the Pro­sec­utor’s Office of the Per­vo­maisky Dis­trict of Bishkek opened a crim­in­al case against under Art­icle 407 “Pro­pa­ganda of war, dis­sem­in­a­tion in any form of views, ideas or appeals with the aim of pro­vok­ing aggres­sion of one coun­try against anoth­er or unleash­ing a mil­it­ary con­flict” of the Crim­in­al Code of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Kyrgyz author­it­ies should imme­di­ately drop the crim­in­al charges, release Duishen­bi­yev, and stop obstruct­ing Next TV’s work. Both Kyrgyz and inter­na­tion­al audi­ences must have access to free media that pub­lish inde­pend­ent and object­ive mater­i­al, espe­cially in the con­text of dan­ger­ous pro­pa­ganda dis­sem­in­ated by pro-Krem­lin channels.

On April 1, 2022, the Kyrgyz secur­ity ser­vices of GKNB summoned Next TV’s social media man­ager Aisu­luu Kudaiber­di­yeva and Azat Jeen­bekov, Ravshan Jeenbekov’s son, for ques­tion­ing. Sub­sequently, Azat, who works and lives in the United States, was for­bid­den to leave Kyrgyz­stan. Ravshan Jeen­bekov said that actions of GKNB against these two indi­vidu­als should be seen as sup­press­ing the free press, intim­id­a­tion of rep­res­ent­at­ives of free media, their asso­ci­ates and their relatives.

28 March 2022 Per­vo­maisky Dis­trict Court of Bishkek began con­sid­er­ing a peti­tion from the Pro­sec­utor Gen­er­al’s Office to stop broad­cast­ing the Next TV chan­nel in Kyrgyz­stan. Dur­ing the hear­ing Ravshan Jeen­bekov was expelled from the court room for demand­ing tri­al open to pub­lic. This is not the first time Ravshan Jeen­bekov is facing per­se­cu­tion. He faced fab­ric­ated charges since 2019 and  was held in SIZO‑1. Ravshan Jeen­bekov can not leave Kyrgyz­stan and is still facing crim­in­al charges.

Bek­sultan Abbakir uulu, RFE/RL

NEXT TV is an inde­pend­ent media out­let oper­at­ing in Kyrgyz­stan since 2003. It is known for provid­ing its audi­ence with inde­pend­ent report­ing шт Kyrgyz and Rus­si­an and view­points that dif­fer from the offi­cial ver­sions of the author­it­ies. They reg­u­larly report on polit­ics, cor­rup­tion, human rights and democracy.