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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago




[20.09.23] Kyrgyz FM Rejects US Concern Over Journalism in Kyrgyzstan

Speaking to the annual OSCE-sponsored regional conference on media in Central Asia that opened in Bishkek on 17 September, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov rejected concerns expressed recently by a U.S. State Department official about freedom of the press in Kyrgyzstan, akipress.org reported.
 
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Lorne Craner, at a hearing of the U.S. congressional Helsinki Commission on 9 September, condemned Kyrgyz officials' use of criminal-libel charges against journalists and media outlets to stifle criticism, and cited the U.S. legal practice of requiring that officials prove malicious intent on the part of editors and journalists in cases of libel.
 
Aitmatov said that neither Kyrgyz officials nor journalists are sufficiently mature for this practice to be introduced in Kyrgyzstan. In the minister's view, journalists first need to understand their responsibilities to society and to individuals. While officials should be open to public criticism, such criticism should be objective and based on solid evidence, he said.
 
In his opening speech on 17 September to an OSCE regional conference on the media in Central Asia, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov gave official figures on the number of media outlets registered in the country, kabar.kg reported. According to Aitmatov, 500 print media and 128 electronic media are registered. There are also about 800 websites, with that figure increasing rapidly.
 
Aitmatov said the government seeks to expand Internet use by opening free Internet centers in rural areas and by providing schools with computers linked to the Internet. All national-level government agencies are getting web-sites, which is supposed to improve transparency and access for journalists and the general population. Kabar noted that Aitmatov's figures differ from those given by international organizations, which say that Kyrgyzstan has 689 print media and 126 electronic-media outlets. The news agency noted that only a few dozen newspapers and television and radio stations are functioning stably.
 
The Times of Central Asia/RFE/RL, September 20, 2003

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