Kyrgyz police officers guard the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Bishkek in January 2022. Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports, and Youth Policy announced a two-month block of Radio Azattyk's website under the country’s false information law on October 26, 2022. (Photo Credit: AFP/Vyacheslav Oseledko)

CPJ: Kyrgyzstan’s block of RFE/RL website ‘a flagrant act of censorship’

Stockholm, October 27, 2022 – Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports, and Youth Policy on Wednesday announced a two-month block of the website of Radio Azattyk, the local service of U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, under the country’s false information law after the outlet refused to remove a video report on recent border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

“The blocking of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service is a flagrant act of censorship of a crucial and critical media outlet, and all too clearly shows the immense dangers of Kyrgyzstan’s false information law,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Kyrgyz authorities must immediately lift the block on Radio Azattyk and repeal the law on false information, which gives state officials carte blanche to quash inconvenient reporting through wholly opaque decisions on alleged ‘inaccuracy.’”

The Ministry of Culture said the report, aired by Current Time TV, a joint Russian-language project of RFE/RL and Voice of America, on September 16 and published on Radio Azattyk’s website, was “unreliable” and “contrary to the national interests of the Kyrgyz Republic.”

In a press release issued the same day, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said the broadcaster had reviewed the content in question and found “no violation of our standards.” Fly added, “We will not succumb to pressure to remove balanced reporting from our sites, be it from the Kremlin or the Kyrgyz government.”

The decision to block Radio Azattyk is the third use of the 2021 false information law, previously criticized by CPJ, against a media outlet, reports stated. In July, authorities blocked the independent news website Res Publica over a disputed anti-corruption investigation. In August, the Ministry of Culture ordered major news outlet to be blocked but reversed its decision the same day.