PRESS RIGHTS AND CONSTRAINTS IN KYRGYZSTAN: THE FIRST YEAR OF PRESIDENT ATAMBAEV
Eric Freedman, Associate Professor of Journalism, Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI, U.S.)
The ouster of authoritarian President Kurmanbek Bakiev in April 2010 was heralded as opening the door to a new era of human, press, and political rights protections in Kyrgyzstan. However, the interim administration of President Roza Otunbaeva and the accession of her democratically elected successor, President Almazbek Atambaev, on 1 December, 2011, failed to produce the anticipated, significant commitment to restore and safeguard press rights. Drawing on interviews with journalists and mass media experts in Bishkek and Osh, this article examines the press rights situation and restraints in the first year of the Atambaev administration. It concludes that achievement of a strong press rights record will be neither easy nor swift in light of Kyrgyzstan’s Soviet-era and post-independence history, economic constraints, and political fragility.
Keywords: Kyrgyzstan; journalism; press freedom; ethnic conflict; post-revolution.
In April 2010, Kyrgyzstan experienced its second revolutionary change of regimes since independence nineteen years earlier. A popular uprising ousted the increasingly authoritarian president, Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was replaced by an interim president, Roza Otunbaeva. Kyrgyzstan experienced a second major upheaval in June 2010 when violence between ethnic Uzbeks and ethnic Kyrgyz erupted in the country’s South. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) International Crisis Group labeled that conflict a “pogrom” and reported that the “June events”—as local residents characterized it—left more than…………..