Censorship imposed in Kyrgyzstan

Censorship imposed in Kyrgyzstan

A rally #REaction 3.0 in support of freedom of speech took place in Bishkek's Ala-Too square. The reason was the bill "On manipulation of information" adopted by members of parliament to officially introduce censorship in the country. The protesters want President Sooronbay Jeenbekov to veto the draconian law and bring the speaker of parliament to justice.

The peaceful rally was initiated by civic activists. It was led by leader of the Ata-Menen party Omurbek Tekebayev. The protesters moved across the city from the railway station to Ala-Too Square, where they held a rally. The authorities did not interfere with the rally, although on the eve it was reported that street disinfection would be carried out along the procession's route. About 500 people demanded that President Sooronbay Jeenbekov veto a bill on information manipulation, which was adopted by parliamentarians last week.

The rally participants organized a signature campaign under a statement addressed to chairman of the State Committee for National Security Orozbek Opumbayev. The statement reports on the violations committed by MPs led by the speaker during the adoption of the bill.

The draconian law was initiated by MPs Gulshat Asylbaeva and Ainur Osmonova. The bill was adopted behind closed doors. Journalists under the pretext of coronavirus were not allowed into the White House (government and parliament buildings). The MPs were in a hurry, therefore, they passed the bill in the second and third readings with 79 votes, although only 30 MPs attended the meeting. 10 of them voted against, 20 of them voted for themselves and colleagues who did not come to work. "In particular, there's MP Ekmat Baybakpayev in the list of those who supported the adoption of the law. However, he was absent from the meeting because of COVID-19. Thus, the MPs maliciously and deliberately used official powers," the statement reads. "Participants of the rally demand bringing speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh Dastanbek Dzhumabekov and other MPs to criminal liability. Lawyers, journalists, experts, politicians and common citizens say that the bill establishes state censorship on the Internet, which will affect absolutely all users in the Kyrgyz Republic."

However, the document has already been put on the president's table. After signing, it will be published and enter into force.

The document states that "the owner of the website and (or) the Internet page is obliged to post his data - name, surname, email address to send him legally significant messages. Obviously, this is done in order to hold accountable those who expressed an opinion objectionable to the authorities or published some fact that a particular MP wanted to hide. The Ministry of Culture was appointed the authorized body to monitor fakes. Its officials will identify false and inaccurate information and make decisions regarding the owner of a website or a page on pre-trial restriction of access to information. Simply said, block resources without any trial.

Civil activists sent an open letter to Sooronbay Jeenbekov, in which they asked him to veto the bill. Ex-judge of the Constitutional Chamber Klara Sooronkulova drew attention to the violation of the parliamentary meeting's regulation, which occurred in front of the chairman of the parliament and his deputy. "Speaker Dastanbek Dzhumabekov and his deputy Aida Kasymalieva saw how MP Umbetaly Kydyraliev pressed buttons instead of absent MPs during the voting. They silently watched it. In addition, a large number of in violation of the law on the regulations of the Jogorku Kenesh," the lawyer explained.

President Sooronbai Jeenbekov intends to deal with the situation personally. The head of state will attend the extraordinary parliamentary meeting. After returning from Moscow, he was forced to work remotely, since two members of the delegation which visited Russia to participate in the Victory Parade contracted COVID-19. Jeenbekov was already twice tested for COVID-19, but the result was negative. Meanwhile, 17 employees of the presidential apparatus, including its leader Dosaly Esenaliev, also contracted COVID-19.