Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyzstan service of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, is seen hosting a discussion of the recent court decision ordering the outlet's closure. (Screenshot: YouTube/Azattyk)

CPJ: Shuttering of RFE/RL Kyrgyz service sends ‘chilling message’

Stockholm, April 27, 2023—In response to news reports that a court in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday ordered the closure of Radio Azattyk, the local service of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement condemning the ruling:

“The shuttering of Radio Azattyk, one of Kyrgyzstan’s most popular and trusted sources of news, sends a deeply chilling message to the country’s independent media and raises profound questions about the direction in which Kyrgyz authorities wish to take their country,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should immediately overturn this decision and allow the outlet to work freely.”

The Lenin District Court in the capital, Bishkek, ruled on Thursday, April 27, to terminate the operations of Radio Azattyk over a September 16, 2022, video report about a border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, published on the outlet’s website, those reports said. In January, Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Culture, Information, Sport, and Youth Policy applied to the court to shut down the outlet, arguing that the video spread Tajik disinformation and violated a ban on “propaganda of war, violence, and cruelty, national or religious exclusiveness, and intolerance of other peoples and nations.”

RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly said in a statement that the outlet will appeal the court’s “outrageous decision.”

Kyrgyz authorities have blocked Radio Azattyk’s websites since October over the same video, and issued a freeze on the outlet’s bank accounts under the country’s money laundering laws.

In January, CPJ and six partner organizations sent a letter to Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov requesting a meeting over authorities’ escalating crackdown on press freedom, citing the application to shutter Radio Azattyk among other cases.