UN expresses concern over detained journalists in Kyrgyzstan News
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UN expresses concern over detained journalists in Kyrgyzstan

UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Liz Throssell expressed concern Tuesday over the detention of journalists in Kyrgyzstan. This comes after authorities from the State Committee for National Security and the Ministry of Interior searched independent media outlets and detained 14 journalists.

According to Throssell, authorities from the State Committee for National Security detained 3 journalists on Monday in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and authorities from the Ministry of Internal Affairs detained 11 journalists for questioning on Tuesday.

Throssell further wrote that detaining individuals to punish them for exercising the freedom of expression does not strictly adhere to international human rights law and highlighted concerns about a proposed media law that could limit the freedom of expression. Throssel also urged authorities to safeguard the freedom of expression and ensure that media legislation conforms with international human rights standards.

The draft media law has been alleged to have issues related to its broad application, mandatory registration requirements, restrictions on foreign media, severe content restrictions, limitations on media ownership, and accreditation criteria for journalists. A UN Special Rapporteur letter also argued that the draft law may violate international standards on freedom of expression, create barriers for media outlets, and risk government interference. It further emphasized the potential for abuse of vague terms and called for revisions to ensure compliance with human rights principles, particularly those outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the detention of the journalists, as well. Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, Jeanne Cavelier, wrote:

This wave of arrests on the basis of a dubious charge amounts to a purge of local investigative journalism … Investigating corruption is not a crime and police should not be used as a tool of intimidation. We denounce this witch-hunt against journalists and call on the [Kyrgyzstan] authorities to release them at once.

According to a press release released subsequently to these events by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, on December 30, 2023, police discovered calls for mass unrest on social networks allegedly attributed to the media houses “Ait Ait Dese” and “Temirov Live.” A forensic examination reportedly confirmed these calls on January 12, 2024. Subsequently, the Investigative Service initiated a criminal case under Article 278, part 3 of the Kyrgyz Criminal Code for inciting disobedience, mass riots, and violence against citizens, which led to the present search and detention of journalists.

On November 26, 2022, Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern over Kyrgyzstan journalist Bolot Temirov, who was expelled from Kyrgyzstan to Russia. On October 28, 2022, HRW stated that Kyrgyzstan authorities have increased efforts to control the freedom of the press by controlling and censoring mass media.