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Journalists in Trouble: RFE/RL Challenges Kyrgyz Government Crackdown

Kyrgyz government continues crackdown on RFE/RL; Taliban blocks Radio Azadi websites; Iran sanctions RFE/RL President; and more.


“They clicked once. Then came the dark prisons:” Read the Washington Post’s editorial on a “new generation of political prisoners,” including RFE/RL Belarus Service contributor Ihar Losik and his wife Darya who was jailed for advocating for Ihar’s release.

KYRGYZSTAN: RFE/RL Challenges Kyrgyz Government Crackdown

As the Kyrgyz government continues its crackdown on RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk, RFE/RL is using all legal means challenge the unlawful restrictions on the Service.

In February, RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly visited Bishkek to advocate for the Service and media freedom in the country. Fly met with President Sadyr Japarov for a conversation on Azattyk’s role in providing objective information to the Kyrgyz people. In an op-ed published in The Diplomat, Fly argued “If yet another government is allowed to silence independent media without it affecting diplomatic relations with the United States and EU member states, other aspiring authoritarians across Central Asia will be emboldened.”

Since October 2022, Kyrgyz authorities have retaliated against RFE/RL for refusing to remove reporting about clashes at the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, including by blocking Azattyk websites and freezing the Service’s bank account. RFE/RL has filed lawsuits challenging these actions.

During a February 21 hearing into RFE/RL’s appeal against an Interior Ministry probe that led to the freezing of Azattyk’s bank account, Judge Tilek Turdukulov said the investigator who initiated the probe may have acted illegally.

In January, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy asked a Bishkek court to halt Azattyk’s operations. The request was condemned widely by international watchdogs including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect JournalistsHuman Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders. The next hearing on the Ministry’s application is scheduled to take place on March 6.

Ahead of the March 6 hearing, we urge you to call on the Kyrgyz authorities to withdraw their application to close Radio Azattyk, lift the restrictions on the Service, and to work instead to foster a free media environment.

UKRAINE: RFE/RL Marks One Year Since Unjust Sentencing of Journalist by Russian Court

February 16 marked one year since a Russia-imposed court in occupied Crimea sentenced RFE/RL correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko to six years in prison for the alleged possession and transport of explosives, a charge he has steadfastly rejected. In March 2021, FSB officers detained Vladyslav while he was reporting on social and environmental issues in Crimea. Vladyslav’s prison term was reduced to five years in August 2022.

Press freedom groups, including the Committee to Protect JournalistsPEN America, and Reporters Without Borders, along with U.S. and Ukrainian officials, are among those who have called for Vladyslav’s immediate release. RFE/RL is grateful to U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) for supporting him and 13 other Crimean journalists through the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project.

AFGHANISTAN: Taliban Blocks Access to Radio Azadi Websites as the Service Doubles Airtime

In early February, Afghanistan’s telecommunication providers blocked access to the websites of RFE/RL’s Afghan Service, known locally as Radio Azadi, at the direction of the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority. The move, which was condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists, comes after the Taliban removed RFE/RL programming from Afghanistan’s airwaves in December 2022.

“When the Taliban took Azadi off its airwaves, Azadi came back stronger than ever, doubling its daily time on air to become a 24/7 service,” RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly said in a February 8 statement. “For two decades, Afghans have turned to Azadi for hope, and we will continue to find ways to reach them.”

IRAN: RFE/RL President Added to Tehran’s Sanctions List

RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly is one of more than two dozen people and entities to have been added to Iran’s sanctions list on February 21. RFE/RL’s Persian-language Service, Radio Farda, has been on the list since December 2022.

“It’s a badge of honor to be sanctioned by the Iranian regime,” Fly said after the announcement of his inclusion on the list. “I am proud of the journalists at Radio Farda who are exposing government lies and cruelty, and reaching ever-growing audiences who want the truth. Nothing will halt our work.”


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