OPC Urges Kyrgyz to Match Action to Rhetoric on Press Freedom

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Kyrgyzstan

H.E. Roza Otunbayeva
President
Office of the President
Dom Pravitelstva
Bishkek
Kyrgyz Republic
Fax: (011.996.312) 66.60.62

Your Excellency:

The Overseas Press Club of America is outraged that Kyrgyz authorities have filed separate criminal charges against Khalil Khudaiberdiyev and Dzhavlon Mirzakhodzhayev of Osh TV, accusing them of organizing and participating in mass disorder; calling for separatism; inciting inter-ethnic and religious hatred; abusing their office and creating an armed group.

Both men, who deny the charges, have now left the country for their safety and are currently being tried in absentia.

At a May 3 celebration of World Press Freedom Day, you praised the Kyrgyz’s government’s media record by saying “Freedom of the press is the main achievement of the republic.”  We call upon you to act on that pledge for a free press by dropping the charges against these two news media managers, who by all accounts fairly covered a May, 2010 rally in Jalal-Abad, in which demonstrators gathered to oppose the return to power of ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The OPC is deeply disturbed by the price these two men have already been forced to pay for exercising their right to report the news.  Mr. Khudaiberdiyev, for example, was forced to sell Osh TV in July, and only left the country after being interrogated by local security services and receiving threats from a local mayor.

What is more, the trial is the latest of a string of troubling cases that call into question Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to a free press, your boasts to the contrary notwithstanding.

Notable are a 2010 life sentence handed to human rights reporter, Azimjon Askarov, for a range of charges including complicity to commit homicide and murder a police officer.  Several reputable human rights organizations have researched Askarov’s case -- and concluded the charges are unfounded.  Furthermore, Askarov was beaten in detention.

Your Excellency, we urge you to invest a personal interest in these cases so Kyrgyzstan can practice its self-described commitment to an idea of the nation as a place where journalists are guaranteed the freedom to report news without retribution.

Respectfully yours,
Adam Ellick 
Kevin McDermott
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Muktar Djumaliev
Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic
2360 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20008
Fax: (202) 386.7550

Ambassador Talaibek Kydyrov
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations
866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 477
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 486.5259

Kyrgyz Parliamentarian against Corruption
40, Manas Avenue, Room 328
Bishkek  720040
Kyrgyz Republic
kpac@saimanet.kg

H.E. Tatiana C. Gfoeller
U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyztan
Embassy of the United States of America
171 Prospect Mira
Bishkek  720016
Kyrgyzstan
Fax: (011.996.312) 55.12.64

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC  20520

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