REEDOM ON THE
run-up to the 2011 presidential elections, the government passed a statute placing stringent
regulations on foreign television broadcasts related to the elections and imposing high fines for
Given the difficulty of parsing content, television carriers chose to cut off access to
most foreign television channels—whether they were Russian, American, or European—in order
to avoid the fines. By comparison, the websites of broadcasters such as CNN, the BBC, or Russia
Today remained available throughout the campaign. Online resources were not affected by this
statute as they are not considered to be mass media. Nevertheless, there have been several incidents
of government entities ordering blocks of online content, including at least one news website.
In June 2011, the parliament passed a resolution instructing the government to block the
independent Central Asian news website Ferghana News, based on charges that its content could
incite national strife.
In February 2012, the SCA sent letters to all ISPs delineating the
requirement to block the news website.
As of April 2012, only KyrgyzTelecom had implemented
On November 19, 2012, the human rights defender organization “Partner Group
Precedent,” representing Ferghana News, filed a lawsuit against the SCA claiming that the ban on the
news site violated the right to freedom of expression.
During the court hearings, the SCA
representative stated that their letter to ISPs requiring them to take measures on blocking Ferghana
News was of a voluntary nature and that ISPs were not forced to block the website.
In April 2013,
the SCA sent official letters to ISPs in Kyrgyzstan confirming that they were not required to block
the site. Subsequently, all ISPs—including the state one, KyrgyzTelecom—unblocked the site,
though the legal status of the original parliamentary resolution is still unclear.
After Russia passed a law titled “On Protection of Children from Negative and Harmful
Information” in July 2012, a group of parliamentarians in Kyrgyzstan initiated similar legislation
titled “On protection of children from information threatening to their health and development.”
Although almost identical to the Russian law, this act is less specific regarding internet regulation,
and if passed it could be used as a tool for internet censorship by allowing the government to close
down sites without a court decision. The criteria upon which the government would make these
decisions are unclear. The proposal sparked public outrage, and an internet movement named
Kyrnet.kg conducted advocacy activities that compelled members of parliament to postpone the bill
until it could be amended.
20 According to the statute, all overseas channels during an election campaign can only be broadcasted from recorded sources
and must not contain any information about candidates that can be considered as propaganda or that can discredit them. See
Article 22 of the Constitutional Law № 68, “On elections of the President of Kyrgyz Republic and deputies of Jogorku Kenesh of
Kyrgyz Republic,” as of July 2, 2011.
21 “Resolution of Jogorku Kenesh,” Kenesh.kg, June 17, 2011, http://kenesh.kg/RU/Pages/ViewNews.aspx?id=8&NewsID=2678.
22 “Пресс релиз Государственного агентства связи при Правительстве Кыргызской Республики” [Press release of the State
Telecommunication Agency under the government of Kyrgyz Republic], February 22, 2012.
23 “Independent News Website Partly Blocked in Kyrgyzstan,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 22, 2012,
24 Законность блокирования сайта Fergana.ru [Legality of Fergana.ru blocking], December 3, 2012,
25 Судебное оспаривание законности блокирования сайта Fergana.ru [Litigation of Legality of Fergana.ru blocking],
December 22, 2012, http://precedent.kloop.kg/2012/12/22/sudebnoe‐osparivanie‐zakonnosti‐blokirovaniya‐sajta‐fergana‐ru/.
26 “Kyrgyzstan: News Site Unblocked, Yet Still Illegal,” Eurasianet.org, May 7, 2013, http://eurasianet.org/node/66936.
27 На общественное обсуждение выносится законопроект «О защите детей от информации, причиняющей вред их
здоровью или развитию» [Protection of Children from Negative and Harmful Information Act is submitted for public
discussion], July 10, 2012, http://bit.ly/1bhGZy9.
REEDOM ON THE
According to the legal requirements in place under the 2005 statute “On Counteraction to
the procedure by which a website can be blocked must first begin with a
request to the prosecutor.
After the request is issued, a review committee must be assembled
consisting of representatives from different organizations (linguistic, religious, legal, and so forth)
that can confirm the extremist nature of the site. However, members of the committee are
appointed by the government, calling into question the committee’s independence and level of
objectivity. Once confirmation is granted, a court issues a judicial decision to block the website.
In November 2012, the Ministry of Internal Affairs proposed amendments to the law “On
Counteraction to Extremist Activities” originally passed in 2005, which would allow the
government to order web hosting services to shut down websites hosted in Kyrgyzstan, or block
any sites hosted outside the country, if the government recognizes the content as “extremist.”
These amendments gave rise to criticism from parliamentarians who noted that in this case websites
should be included in the category of mass media, and that the amendments need further
At the same time, these amendments are intended to make the process for blocking
websites more transparent, since they oblige corresponding bodies to publish the list of blocked
resources on their official sites. Despite the criticisms, the amendments were passed on May 8,
The video “Innocence of Muslims,” which provoked a wave of protests throughout the Islamic
world, caused a controversy in Kyrgyzstan as well. On September 19, 2012, the Prosecutor
General’s Office, based on the expert conclusion of the State Commission for Religious Affairs,
filed a claim that asked the court to recognize the video as extremist and ban it from show and
dissemination in Kyrgyzstan.
At the same time, the Prosecutor General’s Office instructed the
SCA to take measures to restrict access to the video on YouTube.
Parliamentarians debated that
question and were divided in opinion, with some of them calling to ignore the video and others
affirming the need to protest against it. Finally, the parliament issued a resolution to block the
video temporarily before the court issued a decision, which is against the constitution and other
One day later, the court decided to recognize the video as extremist and banned it from
28 Dmitry Golovanov, “Kyrgyzstan: Extremism Outlawed,” IRIS Merlin, August 2005,
http://merlin.obs.coe.int/iris/2005/8/article26.en.html; “The statute on counteraction against extremist activities” as of
February 20, 2009.
29 Representatives of the 10
department explained the procedure to the author in a private interview in December 2011.
30 “Во втором чтении приняты поправки в закон о противодействии экстремистской деятельности” [The amendments to
the law “On Counteraction to Extremist Activities” have passed second reading], February 28, 2013, http://www.for.kg/news‐
31 Поправки о закрытии экстремистских сайтов отправили на доработку [Amendments on closing extremist sites are sent
to revision] November 26, 2012, http://bit.ly/18eWjdw.
32 Законы Кыргызской Республики за 2013 год [The Statutes of Kyrgyz Republic for 2013]
33 «Невинность мусульман» содержит признаки возбуждения межрелигиозной вражды [Innocence of Muslims contains
religious hatred traces], September 20, 2012, http://asiapress.kg/koom/3605‐nevinnost‐musulman‐soderzhit‐priznaki‐
34 Генпрокуратура хочет запретить в Кыргызстане показ фильма «Невинность мусульман» [General Prosecutor Office
wants to ban “Innocence of Muslims” film in Kyrgyzstan], September 19, 2012, http://www.knews.kg/ru/action/21685/
35 Жогорку Кенеш выразил позицию по фильму «Невинность мусульман» [Jogorku Kenesh expressed its position for film
“Innocence of Muslims”] September 20, 2012, http://kabar.kg/index.php/politics/full/40755.
REEDOM ON THE
show and dissemination in Kyrgyzstan.
According to a statement by the State Committee of
National Security of Kyrgyzstan, possession of the film on any storage device could have led to
Interestingly, the Religious Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan stated
that there was nothing in the video related to Islam and called on Kyrgyz Muslims not to react to
One week later, a film titled “I Am Gay and Muslim” by the Dutch director Chris Belloni was
scheduled to screen at the International Documentary Film Festival on Human Rights held in
Bishkek from September 24–28, 2012. On September 28, the day the film was supposed to be
shown, representatives from the State Committee of National Security (SCNS) confiscated a copy
of the film and issued a warning to the festival organizers, stating that the State Commission of
Religious Affairs had deemed the film “extremist.”
That same day, the Pervomaysky District
Court recognized the film as extremist and banned it from demonstration and dissemination.
Additionally, the Prosecutor General’s Office ordered the SCA to take measures to restrict access
to this film for internet users in Kyrgyzstan, and on October 8, 2012, the human rights group that
organized the film festival received a notice from their web hosting company stating that their
website might be shut down if it contained any references to the banned film.
The organizer of the
festival, Tolokan Ismailova, claimed that SCNS representatives did not have the authority to
confiscate the film or issue the warning and brought a suit against the State Committee of National
Security. Nevertheless, the court dismissed the case.
The government has also sought to restrict access to terrorism-related content. In November 2011,
a top official in the 10
department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs claimed that their unit for
countering cyberthreats had identified 12 websites with terrorist and extremist content that were
then blocked according to a court order.
Among the list of blocked websites was Furqon.com,
which belongs to the militant group Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Self-censorship exists online to a certain degree, primarily as a result of government restrictions
against the incitement of national hatred. All posts on forums are strictly moderated to limit this
36 “Суд запретил распространение и показ фильма «Невинность мусульман» в Кыргызстане” [The court ruled to ban
dissemination and show of the film “Innocence of Muslims” in Kyrgyztan] September 21, 2012,
37 В случае обнаружения фильма «Невинность мусульман» в компьютере или других электронных носителях, их
владелец будет привлечен к ответственности – ГКНБ [In case of discovering of the film “Innocence of Muslims” on computer
or any electronic devices, the owner will be criminally prosecuted], September 21, 2012,
38 ДУМК: В фильме "Невинность мусульман" нет ничего, имеющего отношение к исламу [RAMK: The film “Innocence of
Muslims has nothing related to Islam”] September 18, 2012, http://bit.ly/18AlJBo.
39 “Kyrgyzstan: Dismissal of the complaint lodged by Mrs. Tolekan Ismailova,” International Federation for Human Rights
(FIDH), November 29, 2012, http://www.fidh.org/Kyrgyzstan‐Dismissal‐of‐the‐12515.
42 Толекан Исмаилова против Государственного комитета национальной безопасности по делу о фильме «Я – гей и
мусульманин» [Tolekan Ismailova vs. State Committee of National Security regarding “I am Gay and Muslim”], December 7,
43 “12 сайтов заблокировано на территории Кыргызстана за распространение слухов экстремистского характера” [12
sites have been blocked in Kyrgyzstan as spreading rumors of extremist kind], Kyrgyz Telegraph Agency (KirTAG), November 28,
REEDOM ON THE
type of content, and online journalists or bloggers generally try to avoid issues concerning ethnic
Online platforms such as forums and social networks are actively used for manipulating public
opinion, usually by “trolls” hired by different political actors to influence discussions and express
favorable views. Reportedly, the compensation of a “troll” for one campaign can be anywhere from
The Kyrgyz blogosphere is not well-developed. There are several popular blog-hosting platforms in
Kyrgyzstan (such as Namba.kg, Kloop.kg, Diesel.elcat.kg, and Taboo.kg), but most blogs focus on
entertainment, reprint reports from other news agencies, or simply contain a blogger’s
thoughts on different issues. There are no particularly popular blogs specifically devoted to political
or social issues. Most blogs are in Russian, though some are in the local Kyrgyz language, but the
latter are not as popular as the former. The internet in general has become an important source of
alternative information for users, but since it is primarily the wealthier segments of the population
who can afford to consistently access the internet, the wealthy are the main participants in online
communities. Social media applications such as Facebook have not yet gained widespread
popularity. As of February 2013, there were about 111,000 Facebook users in Kyrgyzstan,
accounting for about 10 percent of the online population in the country.
Several online initiatives were launched in the run-up to the 2011 elections, including the website
Politmer.kg, created to allow Kyrgyz citizens to monitor the campaign promises made by the
presidential candidates, and the crowd-sourcing website Map.inkg.info, created to document and
map election violations. During pre-election debates, some forum topics were created to collect
questions for the candidates.
Perhaps the most successful online mobilization campaign came in response to the proposed
legislation titled “On protection of children from information threatening to their health and
development.” This proposal provoked public outrage, and in an effort to bring attention to the
issue, many of the largest ISPs and content providers placed banners over their sites with slogans
such as “ATTENTION! This site can be closed. Get to know details and vote against.” The proposal
also sparked the internet movement Kyrnet.kg, which conducted advocacy initiatives against the
act. Within two months, the site had collected approximately 12,000 votes against the act.
Furthermore, in a September 2012 meeting with group of parliamentarians from the political group
that had initiated the act, the representatives of Kyrnet.kg showed the results of the voting and
explained the shortcomings of the act. The parliamentarians agreed that the act needed further
elaboration and promised to arrange an extended meeting with all of the parliamentarians who
initiated the law for further discussion.
44 Almaz Rysaliev, Yulia Goryaynova, Dina Tokbaeva, Lola Olimova, and Bakhtiyor Rasulov, “Central Asia's ‘Troll Wars,’” Institute
for War & Peace Reporting, February 14, 2012, http://iwpr.net/report‐news/central‐asias‐troll‐wars.
45 “Kyrgyzstan Facebook Statistics,” Social Bakers, accessed March 2012, http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook‐
46 Наши лайки работают [Our likes work!], September 17, 2012, http://kyrnet.kg/archives/44.
REEDOM ON THE
Authorities in Kyrgyzstan continued to prosecute individuals for posting material online that was
deemed controversial, based on charges such as “inciting national hatred.” Additionally, in February
2013 there was a case of physical assault against a journalist by a member of parliament. While this
appears to be an isolated incident, it points to a broader lack of respect for journalists on the part of
politicians in the country.
The rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression are legally protected in the new
constitution that was approved by referendum in June 2010, and which strengthens the power of
the country’s parliament vis-à-vis the president. Article 31 of the constitution guarantees the right
to freedom of thought, expression, speech, and press. Article 29 provides constitutional
protections over privacy, including private correspondence (by phone, mail, electronic, or others),
and forbids the collection or dissemination of confidential information without an individual’s
consent. Nevertheless, the judiciary is not independent and remains dominated by the executive
branch. Corruption among judges, who are generally underpaid, is also widespread, hindering the
fairness of decisions in freedom of expression cases as well as others.
In July 2011, the government decriminalized libel to bring legislation in line with the new
constitution. Nevertheless, “insult” remains a criminal offense and is punishable by a fine. Officials
have long used libel charges to stifle critical media but have not applied these laws against bloggers
The criminal code contains several provisions (Articles 299 and 299-1) that prohibit
“inciting national, racial, religious or inter-regional hostility.” In some cases, the government has
sought to apply these provisions in a bid to restrict nonviolent political speech as well.
One of these cases involved independent journalist and blogger Vladimir Farafonov, who was
charged on February 12, 2012 with inciting national hatred based on his publications on News-
Asia.ru, Centrasia.ru and Parus.kg.
Farafonov had written a series of articles that were critical of
Kyrgyz politics and which examined the potential effects of the 2011 presidential election on the
country’s minority populations.
The charge was based on the opinion of a commission convened
by the security service, but given the fact that the commission was composed of only legal and
political experts, Farafonov asked for Russian philology experts to review the case. These experts
expressed their opinion that Farafonov had used language that was tough and sometimes tactless,
but not extremist.
The prosecution had asked for a sentence of 8 years in jail for Farafonov;
47 “OSCE Hails Kyrgyzstan Decision to Discriminate Libel,” The Telegraph, July19, 2011,
48 ГКНБ Кыргызстана: Экспертиза подтвердила наличие признаков разжигания межнациональной розни в публикациях
Владимира Фарафонова [SCNS of Kyrgyzstan: commision of experts proved the indications of national hatred incitement in
publications of Vladimir Farafonov], February 20, 2012, http://www.24.kg/community/122018‐gknb‐kyrgyzstana‐yekspertiza‐
49 “Kyrgyzstan must drop charges against journalist,” Committee to Protect Journalists, February 29, 2012,
50 Журналист Владимир Фарафонов обвиняется в разжигании межнациональной розни! [The journalist Vladimir
Farafonov is accused in national hatred incitement!], February 24, 2012, http://polit.kg/newskg/310.
REEDOM ON THE
however, the judge decided to reduce the sentence to a fine of KGS 50,000 (approximately
$1,000). The case became widely known and aroused a wave of indignation from journalists,
there were many cases of similarly tactless expressions by other authors in Kyrgyz language media
outlets which received no punishment.
All traditional media outlets must register with the government. In June 2011, the Prosecutor
General’s Office proposed amending the statute that regulates mass media
to include internet
news websites as a form of mass media, requiring them to have a license and to operate with the
same responsibilities as traditional media outlets.
In January 2012, an expert from the
Government Office seconded the recommendation;
however, it remains unclear whether online
media are to be treated the same under the law as traditional news media outlets.
There are currently no restrictions on anonymous communication on the internet in Kyrgyzstan.
Websites do not need to register, encryption software is freely available, and real-name registration
is not required to post content online. Furthermore, registration for prepaid SIM cards is optional;
however, post-paid SIM cards, which are rarely used, do require registration with a passport.
Like many former Soviet states, Kyrgyzstan maintains and updates its surveillance technology in
line with Russia’s practices. Kyrgyzstan’s surveillance network is modeled after Russian SORM
technology (“system for operational-investigative activities”), and in August 2012, Kyrgyzstan
updated its surveillance network to be on the same level as current Russian interception systems.
In 2010 and 2011, there were several scandals which revealed the abuse of equipment used for
intercepting communications. A subsequent study from June 2011 by the non-profit Civil Initiative
on Internet Policy (CIIP) analyzed the legislative framework surrounding interception and its
enforcement. It concluded that there were many gaps in the law that enabled interception
equipment to be used, and even abused, without sufficient oversight.
In April 2011, the
parliament passed a decision to switch off all interception equipment deployed on the premises of
mobile phone operators.
According to reports from September 2011 by members of parliament,
51 Кыргызстан: После митинга в защиту В.Фарафонова в посольство РФ переданы обращения А.Князева, У.Бабакулова и
российских соотечественников [Kyrgyzstan: After rally in support of V. Farafonov, petitions of A.Knyazev, U. Babakulov and
Russian countrymen were submitted to Russian Embassy] February 27, 2012, www.fergananews.com/news.php?id=18246
52 The law, “On mass‐media,” June 16, 2008, http://www.medialaw.kg/?q=node/9.
53 “Генпрокуратура Кыргызстана предлагает «законодательно к СМИ отнести интернет‐издания и сайты,
зарегистрированные в зоне kg»” [Prosecutor General's Office suggests “to legalize internet agencies and sites, registered in
.kg zone, by inclusion them in the list of mass‐media”], 24.kg, June 6, 2011, http://www.24.kg/community/101891‐
54 Nurzada Tynaeva, “Эксперт Аппарата правительства предлагает разработать новый закон «О СМИ», чтобы
регулировать информагентства” [The expert of the Government Office suggests to work out the new statute on mass‐media
to regulate information agencies], Knews.kg, January 17, 2012, http://www.knews.kg/ru/parlament_chro/9145/.
Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, “Russia’s Surveillance State,” World Policy Institute, Fall 2013,
56 “Анализ законодательства КР на соответствие применения СОРМ, – предварительное заключение” [Analysis of the
Kyrgyz legislation, concerning lawful using of interception equipment ‐preliminary conclusion], Gipi.kg, accessed September
17, 2012, http://www.gipi.kg/archives/1743.
57 Resolution of Djogorku Kenesh № 332‐V as of 15.04.2011, “On switching off mobile operators' lawful interception
REEDOM ON THE
however, the equipment continues to function.
Since February 2012, the CIIP, together with the
Kyrgyz State Committee on National Security and several human rights organizations, have been
working on amendments to the statute on the Conduct of Investigations—the body responsible for
regulating these issues—that would clarify the circumstances surrounding the use of interception
and provide a more adequate legal framework. As of mid-2013, the draft was still being discussed
in the parliament because of an ongoing debate between the two bodies looking to take control
over the interception equipment: the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Committee of
Amid ongoing ethnic tensions, in 2011, there were several reported instances of physical attacks or
intimidation of members of minorities associated with news websites. In August 2011, Sokhrukh
Saipov, the editor and publisher of the news website UzPress, was brutally attacked, although it is
unclear whether Saipov was attacked specifically for his online activities. The website publishes
content in three languages about the social and political challenges affecting ethnic Uzbeks in
In a separate incident in May 2011, followers of the nationalist Asaba party
threatened non-ethnic Kyrgyz staff of the online news agency 24.kg.
In 2012, there were 10
instances of physical attacks on journalists.
Most of them occurred during the coverage of mass
rallies; however, none of these attacks were directly related to online activities.
In February 2013, Member of Parliament (MP) Tursunbai Bakir uulu, a former ombudsman,
published a post on his Facebook page in which he indirectly called another MP, Irina
Karamushkina, a “guest” in Kyrgyzstan because she did not know the Kyrgyz language. A journalist,
Eric Israilov, defended Karamushkina by stating that she not a guest but was rather an MP and a
citizen of Kyrgyzstan. The online debate became very heated, and Bakir uulu suggested that Israilov
meet him face-to-face. During the meeting Bakir uulu reportedly pushed Israilov and slapped him
in his face.
Later, the leader of the political party to which Bakir uulu belongs stated that it was a
quarrel between two men and had nothing to do with political issues.
In a session of parliament
58 “Дастан Бекешев: В Кыргызстане в компаниях сотовых операторов до сих пор действует система СОРМ” [Dastan
Bekesev: Lawful interception equipment still keeps working in mobile operators in Kyrgyzstan], 24.kg, September 8, 2011,
59 “Independent Journalist Brutally Attacked in Kyrgystan,” Committee to Protect Journalists, August 15, 2011,
60 “World Report 2012: Kyrgyzstan,” Human Rights Watch, accessed August 30, 2012, http://www.hrw.org/world‐report‐
61 В этом году в Кыргызстане совершено 10 нападений на журналистов во время выполнения им профессиональных
обязанностей [There are 10 physical attacks on journalists happened during performance of their duties in this year]
November 9, 2012, http://www.paruskg.info/2012/11/09/71388.
62 Депутат Турсунбай Бакир уулу оскорбил и ударил корреспондента ежедневника «Общественный рейтинг» Эрика
Исраилова [The deputy Tursunbai Bakir uulu offended and attacked the journalist of daily edition “Public rating” Eric Israilov],
February 15, 2013, http://inkg.info/narusheniya‐prav/pravo‐na‐dostup‐k‐informatsii/2702‐deputat‐tursunbaj‐bakir‐uulu‐
63 Феликс Кулов: Турсунбай Бакир уулу не отрицает, что ударил Эрика Исраилова, это ссора двух мужчин, а не
журналиста и депутата [Felix Kulov: Tursunbai Bakir uulu doesn't deny that he slapped Eric Israilov, but it was a quarrel of two
men and not deputy and journalist] February 15, 2013, http://www.24kg.org/parlament/148170‐feliks‐kulov‐tursunbaj‐bakir‐
REEDOM ON THE
two months later, members of parliament blamed Israilov as the source of the conflict and
recommended revoking his credentials.
Instances of politically motivated cyberattacks are generally rare, including in the run-up to the
2011 presidential elections, but they do occur. In 2005, the OpenNet Initiative recorded the
extensive use of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against opposition and news websites,
demonstrating a precedent for such attacks.
In September 2011, there was one incident of hackers
defacing Kabar.kg, the online government news agency website, but this did not significantly
obstruct the agency’s work. In March 2012, the social entertainment resource Namba.kg
experienced a DDoS attack that was apparently part of an extortion attempt.
In the same month,
the news agency Vesti.kg also reported a DDoS attack on its site,
presumably because they had
been republishing articles from Ferghana News.
During 2012 there were several incidents of cyberattacks on government sites. The sites of the
Ministry of Defense (Mil.kg), the State Communication Agency (Nas.kg), and the main portal of
the government (Gov.kg) were defaced at different times. However, these attacks were attributed
to the overall weak security of the sites, rather than to attacks by the opposition, and all attacks
were made automatically by finding some vulnerabilities.
64 Журналист Эрик Исраилов депутатам не по зубам [The journalist Eric Israilov is too tough for the deputies], April 13, 2013,
65 “Kyrgyzstan,” OpenNet Initiative, December 18, 2010, http://opennet.net/research/profiles/kyrgyzstan.
66 As reported by the blog at: http://blogs.namba.kg/post.php?id=116481.
67 Anna Yalovkina, “Редактор "Ферганы": Трудно судить, связаны ли DDoS‐атаки на "Фергану" и "Вести"” [Editor of
Fergana: It’s hard to judge whether DDoS attacks on Fergana and Vesti are related], Vg.kg, March 29, 2012,
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