UN reviews Kyrgyzstan’s human rights, free press record

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.

These and other press freedom and human rights abuses in Kyrgyzstan are on today’s agenda of the U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva. As mandated by the procedure, Kyrgyzstan submitted a report to the Committee, as well as a response to a list of issues documenting notable examples of human rights abuses, among others, in the country.

Multiple local and international human rights and press freedom groups, including CPJ, also submitted reports on Kyrgyzstan, calling on the U.N. agency to hold Kyrgyzstan responsible for violations of ICCPR provisions. The groups’ reports are available on the Committee’s website.

CPJ’s submission focused on impunity in journalist murders, attacks on the press, and official harassment of journalists and news outlets. The report also highlighted the case of Azimjon Askarov, a journalist imprisoned for life in Kyrgyzstan in retaliation for his reporting on abuses committed by law enforcement agents. “[Askarov’s] case,” CPJ wrote in its submission, “stands out as a clear example of Kyrgyz authorities’ violation of several of ICCPR provisions–including Article 7 (banning torture and other cruel treatment), Article 9 (banning arbitrary detention), Article 10 (on the humane treatment of detainees), Article 14 (on access to a fair trial), and Article 19 (on freedom of expression).”

Impunity in anti-press crimes, as well as the unjust prosecution of critical journalists and news outlets, serves as a grim reminder of the risks for the independent press, CPJ research shows. As a result, news media are forced to restrict their coverage of sensitive issues, such as rampant government corruption and widespread human rights abuses, which effectively deprives local residents and the international community of their right to access news in the public interest.

Read CPJ’s submission here.