Ferghana News appeals censorship order in Kyrgyzstan

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.

Nurbek Toktakunov, lawyer for the Moscow-based regional site, filed the appeal in the Bishkek City Court on Friday, according to news reports. Local Internet service providers started blocking domestic access to Ferghana News in February 2012 based on a government order, Daniil Kislov, Ferghana‘s chief editor, told CPJ at the time. The government order stemmed from a parliament resolution that urged the authorities to block the site in connection to its independent reporting on the June 2010 ethnic conflict, according to news reports and CPJ research. Conflict between the ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek residents in the southern part of the country in 2010 displaced thousands and killed hundreds of civilians.

The site filed a lawsuit against the Kyrgyz government and the state communications agency in November, in which it said that the blocking was arbitrary and that authorities had not sought the court order necessary for the ban, reports said. On March 27, a district court in Bishkek, the capital, ruled on the side of the state communications agency, citing a section of Kyrgyz code of civil procedure that grants three months for the dispute of official actions, Ferghana News reported.

In Friday’s appeal, published by Ferghana News, Toktakunov argued that no legal time limits removed the authorities’ responsibility to undo the violation of civil rights. Freedom of speech, as well as the right to access and distribute information, are guaranteed by the Kyrgyz constitution. In November, Toktakunov filed a separate, individual lawsuit against the authorities that demanded his right to access to information be restored. The suit was struck down by the Bishkek court last month.

“The ban on Ferghana News violates the constitutional guarantee of access to information,” said Muzaffar Suleymanov, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program research associate. “We urge the appeals court to make good on the nation’s constitutional promise to its citizens by overturning this censorship order.”

Ferghana News has been the target of much official retaliation in Central Asia, CPJ research shows. Access to the website has temporarily been blocked in Tajikistan in the past. In Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, access to the website is blocked on a permanent basis.

  • For more data and analysis on Kyrgyzstan, visit CPJ’s Attacks on the Press.