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Kyrgyzstan


For CPJ awardees, injustice demands action

IPFA
CPJ honors four journalists who have exposed crime, corruption, and human rights abuses in the face of intense intimidation. The winners of CPJ's International Press Freedom Awards share one trait: indignation when they see injustice.
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Video: Free the Press
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Today, the U.N. Human Rights Committee begins its two-day review of Kyrgyzstan's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. By ratifying the treaty in October 1994, Kyrgyz authorities pledged to enforce internationally recognized provisions regarding the protection of human rights, and freedom of expression, in their country.

But CPJ research shows that Kyrgyzstan has consistently violated ICCPR provisions. Attacks against reporters; impunity in journalist murders, including of journalist Alisher Saipov; blocking of the news website Ferghana News; the politicized prosecution of ethnic Uzbek media owners, including Dzhavlon Mirzakhodzhayev of Mezon TV and Khalil Khudaiberdiyev of Osh TV; and the ongoing imprisonment of investigative reporter Azimjon Askarov have marred the climate of press freedom in Kyrgyzstan.

While President Almazbek Atambayev urged the state council in March to enforce rule of law and guarantee the protection of human rights, he demonstrated little political will to bring about such changes. Authorities showed no intent to revive the Uzbek-language media that thrived in southern Kyrgyzstan prior to the June 2010 conflict, in which clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. Broadcasting in the largest minority language remained limited--only one broadcaster produced news in Uzbek. While access to the independent regional website Ferghana News was restored by most Internet service providers, the Kyrgyz government failed to repeal the June 2011 ban that recommended the outlet be blocked in connection with its coverage of the 2010 conflict. As a result, fear remained that authorities could legally block the website at any time. In May, Atambayev signed a vaguely worded anti-extremism bill that his critics said could be used to target free expression on the Web. Three years after the 2010 ethnic conflict, injustice continued to impair press freedom and human rights. The Kyrgyz leader publicly declared his commitment to revisit the case of imprisoned reporter Azimjon Askarov, but no action followed: Prosecutors failed to investigate the case even after new evidence emerged in Askarov's defense.

Kyrgyzstan has endured a turbulent past and continues to face significant challenges, but its leaders are committed to a democratic future, Djoomart Otorbayev, the nation's deputy prime minister, told human rights and press freedom advocates in New York this week. The country still grapples with the repercussions of the brutal June 2010 ethnic conflict that left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. Journalist Azimjon Askarov remains in prison on charges that CPJ and numerous human rights groups have determined to be in retaliation for his work in uncovering official abuses during the unrest.

On Wednesday, more than a year after being blocked in Kyrgyzstan by government order, Ferghana News was again accessible to the public without the aid of proxy servers. Most local Internet providers, including the state-owned Kyrgyz Telecom, restored access to the website, Daniil Kislov, Ferghana's editor, told CPJ.

New York, April 9, 2013--Lawyers for Ferghana News, a website blocked in Kyrgyzstan for more than a year, have filed an appeal urging the courts to overturn the ban that they say violates fundamental civil rights. The Committee to Protect Journalists urges the court to find in favor of the website and order restoration of domestic access immediately.

Dear Prosecutor General Salyanova: The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to bring to your attention the case of Azimjon Askarov, an investigative reporter and human rights activist imprisoned in Kyrgyzstan. CPJ has written widely about Askarov, who was sentenced to a life term on fabricated charges in a trial marred by procedural violations. Now, following new evidence that has come to light, we ask that you respect Kyrgyzstan's commitment to the rule of law and fulfill the public pledges that President Almazbek Atambayev has made in regards to the journalist's case.

President Almazbek Atambayev and his ministers declared their commitment to press freedom and rule of law even as government agencies routinely subjected independent reporters to intimidation. Kyrgyzstan resisted domestic and international calls for the release of Azimjon Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek investigative reporter and human rights defender serving a life term on fabricated charges, including the murder of a police officer during ethnic violence and inciting ethnic hatred. In a June special report, CPJ found that regional authorities targeted, tortured, and imprisoned Askarov in retaliation for his coverage of the June 2010 conflict between ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz residents in the south, along with his long record of in-depth reporting on abuses by regional police. The 2010 clashes continued to cast a shadow over Kyrgyzstan's press freedom record. In February, the authorities blocked domestic access to the independent regional news website Ferghana News stemming from its reporting on the conflict. Uzbek-language media outlets, which were forced to close in the aftermath of the conflict, began to make their way back into the market, but in smaller numbers, local press freedom groups reported. As in previous years, independent journalists and news outlets battled politicized prosecutions and retaliatory lawsuits. Impunity continued in the 2007 murder of prominent editor Alisher Saipov and in the 2011 attack on his brother, journalist Shokhrukh Saipov.

Worldwide tally reaches highest point since CPJ began surveys in 1990. Governments use charges of terrorism, other anti-state offenses to silence critical voices. Turkey is the world's worst jailer. A CPJ special report

Who is allowed to talk? What are they allowed to say? Award winners seek the answers. By Kristin Jones

(AFP/Michael Nagle)

Worldwide tally reaches highest point since CPJ began surveys in 1990. Governments use charges of terrorism, other anti-state offenses to silence critical voices. Turkey is the world’s worst jailer. A CPJ special report

At least 49 journalists remain jailed in Turkey. (AFP)

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Killed in Kyrgyzstan

1 journalist killed since 1992

1 journalist murdered

1 murdered with impunity

Attacks on the Press 2012

7 Human rights defenders and groups seeking release of jailed reporter Azimjon Askarov.

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