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Kyrgyzstan16 June 2008

President’s signature on broadcast law puts many media under threat

Reporters Without Borders said today that it was worried by a new broadcast law, signed by Kyrgyzstan President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, on 4 June, which it said would threaten the future of a large number of media.

The law gives the president the power to appoint the executive director of state-run TV and radio KTR. It also makes use of official languages partly compulsory as well as in-house production of programmes by the media. The president has however asked the justice, culture and information ministries to take into account reactions and proposals from civil society.

“This media law approved by the president concerns us. The appointment by the head of state of the executive director of the KTR wrecks efforts undertaken to make it a public and not a state company,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“The obligation to produce their own programmes will also put media with limited budgets at risk. We do not understand why the president should sign a law which he knows to be unsatisfactory and then asks ministers to study proposals from civil society”, it added.

Under the new law, more than half of radio and TV programmes will have to be made in an official language (Kyrgyz or Russian). More than 50% of the programmes must also be the production of the media broadcasting them and more than 60% of broadcast productions must have a Kyrgyz author or performer. But most Kyrgyz media do not have the financial resources to produce their own programmes or to buy them from production studios. Most of the privately-owned TV channels put out Russian, Kazakh or Uzbek programmes.

Kyrgyz journalists, as well as international organisations and the representative of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for media freedom, Miklos Harazsti, have asked the president to veto the law which will threaten the viability of many media.

In a release posted on his website, President Bakiyev justifies the law as aiming to “regulate relations in the Kyrgyz media sphere. This law defines the legal and financial conditions for running radio and television.” The presidency said the law will allow “freedom of expression and the right of citizens to receive full, authentic and effective information.”

The Constitutional Court on 11 June rejected a complaint from Och TV and Mezon TV calling for the amendments to be judged unconstitutional. The two TV channels put out Uzbek-language programmes in a region close to Uzbekistan and are seriously threatened by the new law.

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