ARTICLE 19 and Media Press Institute (MPI) have made a Universal Periodic Review submission on the situation of freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan. The submission details how a restrictive legal environment enables the government to target dissent, online and offline, while legal protections for journalists have been weakened, and the situation for access to information has deteriorated.
The Universal Periodic Review is a unique mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council, through which each UN Member State makes commitments to improve its human rights record, following an assessment of progress made against previous commitments. Kyrgyzstan will be reviewed at the 35thSession of the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review in January 2020.
This is the third time Kyrgyzstan has undergone a Universal Periodic Review, and our submission details that the government has largely failed to act on its earlier commitments to protect freedom of expression and access to information.
Kyrgyzstan has a number of broad and vague laws on civil defamation, criminal incitement and “extremism”, which are not in line with international human rights standards. These provisions have been routinely abused to target journalists and independent media, creating a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country.
These same provisions have also been used to target online expression. There is an increasing trend of website blocking of independent media outlets – such as Fergana.ru – often without clear legal basis or judicial authorisation, impeding public debate on vital issues.
The work of journalists is further undermined by a restrictive accreditation regime for allowing access to high-level briefings and events. In practice, journalists who have been critical of the government have been refused accreditation or put on ‘black lists’, locking them out from accessing and publishing vital information.
This is compounded by an unduly ambiguous and vague Law on States Secrets that, without a comprehensive law on access to information, obstructs the ability of independent media actors to do their work.
ARTICLE 19 and MPI highlight these concerns in detail in the submission, and propose concrete recommendations that States must direct to Kyrgyzstan during the upcoming Universal Periodic Review, to ensure the right to freedom of expression in the country.