Kyrgyzstan21 February 2005
President targets opposition daily MSN again
President Aksar Akayev told the governmental newspaper Slovo Kyrgyzstana on 18 February that he intends to bring a libel action against the opposition daily MSN over an 8 February report listing all the news media which either he or his associates control. Akayev said he and his family were the victims of a "persecution campaign" by MSN. He offered to withdraw the lawsuit if MSN publishes a retraction.
16 février 2005
President manipulates media in runup to legislative elections
In the runup to legislative elections on 27 February, President Askar Akayev is using his control of Kyrgyzstan’s news media to smear or neutralize the opposition and eliminate any danger of a revolution through the polls akin to what has taken place in the past 15 months in Georgia and Ukraine, Reporters Without Borders said today.
The press freedom organization said it called on President Akayev to respect the principle of press diversity as an essential guarantor of democratic elections.
"We alert the members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observation mission currently in Kyrgyzstan to the danger of the media being manipulated by the authorities during this crucial election period," Reporters Without Borders said.
The website of the student opposition movement Kel-Kel (www.kelkel.kg) has been blocked by the ISP Asiainfo. The name of this organization - comparable to the "Pora" movement in Ukraine, "Kmara" in Georgia and "Otpor" in Serbia - has been usurped by a clone group that is claiming the "kelkel.kg" domain name. The name was reportedly registered in record time with the justice ministry - in one day instead of the month usually needed.
On 8 January, messages designed to discredit several opposition political figures were somehow sent from e-mail addresses belonging to the opposition websites gazeta.kg and centrasia.ru without the knowledge of those in charge.
The other pillar of Akayev’s media strategy is strict censorship and control of who talks on the media. Aside from the 25 candidates who are the associates of Akayev and his family, no candidates were able to express themselves in the media before 2 February, the end of the candidate registration period.
All the media, whether pro-government or independent, have been given detailed instructions on how the legislative elections are to be covered. In particular, they have been told to concentrate on covering the ruling party candidates.
Most of the media are now controlled by associates of Akayev. This has allowed him to talk at length in an aggressive fashion about "a foreign contamination that would attack the traditions of the Kyrgyz people." The leading TV station, KTR, is controlled by the government. Akayev’s son-in-law owns Koort TV and Love Radio. The independent television station, Piramida-TV, has been taken over by the pro-government Areopag group.
The weekly MSN, which is one of the country’s leading independent newspapers, is once again in the government’s sights. A libel action has been brought against it by the daily Vetchernii Bichkek, which is demanding 120,000 euros in damages because of a report alleging that it is controlled financially by Akayev’s son-in-law, Adil Toigonbaev. A verdict is due on 16 March.