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Media freedom has badly deteriorated since 2009 and the re-election of President Bakiyev with 80% of the vote in a poll criticised by observers of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for numerous problems and irregularities, including ballot-box stuffing, multiple voting and flawed electoral lists. The election campaign involved clashes in which journalists were attacked by supporters of rival candidates. Growing political tension, polarisation and disorders have undermined media freedom.
Journalist Gennady Pavliuk, of the pro-opposition newspaper Bely Parus, died in suspicious circumstances when he fell from the sixth floor of a building in Almaty, capital of neighbouring Kazakhstan, on 16 December 2009, aggravating tensions between President Bakiyev and his opponents. Kyrgyz secret police involvement is suspected but online TV station Stan was shut down by the regime and its equipment seized on 1 April 2010 after mentioning this.
Meanwhile no significant progress has been made in investigating the murder of journalist Alisher Sayipov, who was gunned down in the streets of the country’s second largest city, Osh, in October 2007.
Nationalism is a hot issue and several of the dozen journalists physically attacked in recent times have been ethnic Russian Kyrgyz citizens. Targeted journalists have included Alexander Knyazev (political analyst), Alexander Evgrafov (of Baltinfo), Syrgak Abdyldaev (Reporter-Bishkek), Bakhadyr Kenjebaev (Osh-TV), Ulugbek Babakulov and Elena Agayeva (Moskovsky Komsomolets-Kyrgyzstan), Almazbek Tashiev (freelance), Abduvakhab Moniev (of Achyk Sayasa, attacked twice), and Kubanychbek Joldoshev (of Osh Shamy).
Nepotism and corruption have also led to much pressure on journalists and civil society activists. Several media outlets have been suspended and some heavily fined, threatening their existence, after reporting the arrest in Italy of businessman Yevgeny Gurevich, close to the government and suspected of ties to the mafia. The BBC has been inaccessible inside the country since 15 March and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (Aztatyk) programmes can no longer be heard.
This repression has fed popular discontent and made the opposition more determined. Media outlets reporting opposition calls have been themselves targeted. All 7,000 copies of the newspaper Forum were seized without explanation by police in the capital on 15 March and editor Ryskeldi Mombekov and five other journalists were briefly arrested.
The opposition held major rallies on 17 March and on 5 April during the visit of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. A government building was seized during protests in the northwestern town of Talas on 7 April by the opposition United People’s Movement. The protests were similar to those that brought Bakiev to power.
Kyrgyzstan - 21 February 2012
Kyrgyzstan - 17 August 2011