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Journalists in Trouble: Kyrgyz Government Continues Illegal Censorship

Kyrgyz government extends web ban indefinitely; Taliban blocks RFE/RL programs; Iran sanctions RFE/RL; and more.

Letter written by Kyrgyz public figures urging Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov to unblock RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.
In Kyrgyzstan, 120 Kyrgyz public figures, writers, actors, politicians, and activists have urged President Sadyr Japarov and other top officials of the Central Asian nation to unblock the websites of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk. (RFE/RL).


RFE/RL was featured on the January 1 episode of 60 Minutes on CBS. Watch Bill Whitaker interview President and CEO Jamie Fly and RFE/RL’s journalists on their work reporting from the frontlines in Ukraine and countering Russian disinformation.

KYRGYZSTAN: Government Extends Illegal Censorship of RFE/RL Indefinitely

RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, learned on December 26 that the Kyrgyz government’s blocking of its websites has been extended indefinitely. On October 26, Kyrgyz authorities blocked Radio Azattyk’s websites for two months after it refused to take down a video on clashes at the border with Tajikistan, and subsequently froze the Service’s bank account. A Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy official told RFE/RL the website ban would remain in force until the video is removed.

“RFE/RL will not succumb to government intimidation to censor our reporting,” said RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “We will continue to appeal these illegal attempts to deprive the Kyrgyz people of independent reporting.”

Radio Azattyk has filed lawsuits against the Kyrgyz government’s actions, which fail to meet the most basic requirements of Kyrgyz law. On December 22, a Bishkek court rejected RFE/RL’s complaint regarding the freezing of Azattyk’s bank account. The first hearing on the website ban is scheduled for January 26.

RFE/RL is grateful to our Kyrgyz supporterslocal mediainternational media freedom organizationsU.S.EU, and OSCE officials; and U.S. lawmakers for condemning the Kyrgyz government’s actions. Ahead of the January 26 hearing, we urge you to call on the Kyrgyz authorities to immediately lift the restrictions on Radio Azattyk, to stop harassing independent journalists, and to work instead to foster a free media environment.

AFGHANISTAN: Taliban Removes RFE/RL Programming from In-Country Transmitters

On December 1, the Taliban removed RFE/RL’s award-winning programming from Afghanistan’s in-country radio transmission networks. RFE/RL’s Afghan Service, known locally as Radio Azadi, covers the stories suppressed by the state and serves as a platform for the most vulnerable, including women and girlsthe LGBTQI+ community, and ethnic and religious minorities.

“Azadi is a lifeline for tens of millions of Afghans, making the Taliban’s decision all the more tragic,” said RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “RFE/RL will not change our editorial line to accommodate Taliban demands in order to stay on the air. We know from experience that our audiences make great efforts to find us. The truth cannot be completely suppressed.”

Afghans have again and again expressed their gratitude to RFE/RL for providing a vital public service. RFE/RL will continue broadcasts from outside the country and expand options to reach its dedicated audience through other platforms.

Iran - A woman holds up her headscarf as part of a protest in Tehran on September 27.
A woman holds up her headscarf as part of a protest in Tehran, Iran on Sept. 27, 2022.

IRAN: RFE/RL Sanctioned by Government of Iran

On December 12, the government of Iran added RFE/RL’s Persian-language service, known locally as Radio Farda, to a list of individuals and organizations sanctioned for supporting international terrorism or inciting violence. Radio Farda is known for its uncensored coverage of the Iranian regime’s abuses, including during the historic demonstrations that began in the aftermath of Mahsa Amini’s death in September.

“[This] designation is an absurd manipulation of the truth, straight out of every authoritarian playbook,” said RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “The reality is that each day, the Iranian regime kills men, women, and children protesting for a better future, blames the victims, and abuses their families. Through it all, Radio Farda is trusted by sources and audiences alike to report on what is really happening.”

Radio Farda’s audience is growing despite pervasive blocking. The Service is able to circumvent state restrictions through innovative use of anti-censorship technologies. Radio Farda is also available via shortwave radio and over satellite, allowing audiences to access critical information during government-imposed Internet outages.

BELARUS: Write to Our Imprisoned Journalists

The RFE/RL family took a moment this holiday season to write to our imprisoned Belarusian journalists, Andrey Kuznechyk and Ihar Losik. Andrey was arrested in November 2021 and is now serving a six-year sentence in a maximum-security prison. Ihar has been imprisoned since June 2020 and is serving a 15-year sentence in the same prison.

Join us by writing your own letters to Andrey and Ihar. Both are being held at: Penal colony No. 1. 211440, Navapolack, vulica Techničnaya 8, Belarus. Although letters may not be delivered, they demonstrate continued outside interest to the Belarusian authorities.


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