FEBRUARY 24, 2005
Posted: March 7, 2005

Radio Azattyk (Kyrgyz Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
A state broadcast regulator shuttered the popular Kyrgyz Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, known locally as Radio Azattyk, just three days ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, according to local and international press reports.

The Production Association for Relay Lines, Television and Radio Broadcasting (RPO RMTR) told Radio Azattyk Director Kiaz Moldokasymov that an upcoming auction for the station’s frequency had prompted the sudden closure, The Associated Press reported.

The auction date is March 10. The station normally signs an annual contract with RPO RMTR for the frequency; it submitted documents for renewal on February 8. Radio Azattyk reporters said they believed the suspension was related to politically sensitive parliamentary elections set for February 27, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.

The popular station’s national reach and its willingness to criticize government officials have been particularly important to rural audiences who have little other access to independent sources of news, according to local reports.