Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov (left) speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Kazan, the capital of Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, on February 21, 2024. CPJ called for Kyrgyzstan to repeal a law ratified by President Japarov requiring some nonprofits, including media organizations, to register as “foreign representatives” on April 2, 2024. (Photo: Sputnik and Kremlin Pool Photo via AP/Sergei Bobylev)

Kyrgyzstan president signs Russian-style ‘foreign agents’ law

Stockholm, April 2, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists called for Kyrgyzstan to repeal a law, newly ratified on Tuesday by President Sadyr Japarov, that requires some nonprofits, including media organizations, to register as “foreign representatives.”

“President Sadyr Japarov’s decision to follow Russia’s lead on ‘foreign agent’ legislation threatens to erase Kyrgyzstan’s 30-year status as a relative haven of free speech and democracy in post-Soviet Central Asia,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “While the law’s current form does not directly target media outlets, it could cripple the work of press freedom groups and nonprofits running several of Kyrgyzstan’s celebrated independent media organizations and must be repealed.”

Similar to Russia’s foreign agent legislation, the law requires nonprofits that receive foreign funding and engage in what it defines as political activities to register as “foreign representatives.” It will go into effect 10 days after its official publication, according to media reports.

Under the law, the nonprofits must label their publications as produced or distributed by a foreign representative. They must also submit to costly financial reporting requirements and extensive state oversight that UN special rapporteurs said “may amount to almost unrestricted administrative control.”

Submitted to parliament in May 2023, the bill drew widespread international criticism, including from CPJ, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The move comes amid an unprecedented crackdown on independent media in the country, which has been widely seen as a regional sanctuary for the free press since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Since coming to power in 2020, Japarov has increasingly sought to control the media. He enacted a controversial “false information” law allowing the government to block news websites without a court order, increased presidential power over the state-funded broadcaster, and targeted key journalists and media, including Bolot Temirov and Radio Azattyk, the local service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

In January, Kyrgyz authorities arrested 11 journalists linked to the investigative outlet Temirov Live and raided the privately owned news agency In February, authorities shuttered the prominent news website Kloop.