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Loss of government funding will lead to closure of state-run newspapers in Batken region, diminish free expression, says Adil Soz

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - The following is a joint statement by Adil Soz and newspaper journalists and editors in Batken region regarding the authorities' intention to stop funding state-run newspapers:

Dear Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister,

We, the staff of district and city state-run newspapers in Batken region, closely follow all the events that take place in Kyrgyzstan and do our best to promptly inform the people of any developments inside and outside the region.

State-run print outlets continue to be a tool to promote state policy, defend state interests and report on people's living conditions. Every day, though, it becomes harder for them to fulfil their mission.

We believe that our opinion reflects the opinion of many other state-run newspapers.

The de-nationalization of the state-run newspapers, abolition of regions and the adoption of the two-level and three-level budgets have been widely debated.

However, there are still no optimal ways proposed for de-nationalizing newspapers in Kyrgyzstan.

Experts and analysts believe that the mass closure of the state-run newspapers will cause people in the region to lose freedom of expression and information.

The newspapers fear that state funding to district and regional newspapers will stop with the adoption of the two-level and three-level budgets, respectively.

There are 12 state-run newspapers in Batken region now and no printing office. So the newspapers that are based in the farthest districts, such as Sukjukta and Leilek, have to print their newspapers in Tajikistan.

Some others print their newspapers in another city, Osh. Although their circulation is usually not large, the only means of their continued existence is state funding.

Nowadays, state-run newspapers are the most stable and available source of information for local people; furthermore they serve as a platform for the people to express their opinions. The audience for newspapers reaches 400,000 in the region.

The role of the state-run press is extremely important now. It is impossible to imagine how freedom of expression and democratic principles can be promoted without state-run newspapers.

By addressing the problem, we hope that the authorities will pay more attention to the state-run press. There should be a single and most optimal method used for de-nationalization of state-run newspapers in the regions.

Nowadays, the state-run newspapers in the regions of Kyrgyzstan are feeling a greater need for technical and financial support. The newspapers, on the other hand, are the necessary resources to promote democracy and freedom of expression.

We request that you:

1. Consider the possibility of creating a Ministry of Information and Press while forming the new government; and

2. Give this Ministry power to register and fund media outlets, which will make their activities systemic as well as solve the problem of media dependence on akims (heads of the district state administrations), mayors and governors.

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