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Internet providers block independent news sites

(PAJ/IFEX) - Leading Internet service providers in Kyrgyzstan recently blocked several independent news websites. The sites of the regional news agency and the Kyrgyz service of RFE/RL Azattyk, as well as Centrasia, Belyi Parus (White Sail) and the blog of Edil Baisalov, a political activist living in exile, have not been accessible in Kyrgyzstan since 10 March 2010.

Several dozen activists, opposition politicians, members of parliament and representatives of youth and media organisations rallied in the capital on 15 March, protesting against the pressure that is being brought to bear on the independent mass media. The activists also called for the restoration of broadcasts from Azattyk, the Kyrgyz service of RFE/RL.

The TV company Echo of Manas (Ekho Manasa) stopped broadcasting Radio Azattyk on 11 March, canceling the contract unilaterally. Echo of Manas president Temirbek Toktogaziev said he has been forced to stop broadcasts of Azattyk's programme "Inconvenient Questions" for "political reasons." Radio OK in Bishkek and Almaz Naryn in the northern city of Naryn also dropped scheduled broadcasts.

Thirteen Kyrgyz media organisations issued a statement describing the blocking of independent news sources as a "coordinated attempt to deprive Kyrgyz citizens of information covering the major events which occur in the country." Radio companies across the country dropped scheduled broadcasts simultaneously and managers refused to provide comments. The media organisations denounced the "coordinated attempt to deprive Kyrgyz citizens of access to independent news sources."

The strong public reaction to these access to information restrictions demonstrates that citizens see these events as politically motivated, noted the Kyrgyz media organisations in their statement.

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