The country is an exception in Central Asia, as it enjoys relative freedom of expression and of the press, despite an unstable economy and rampant official corruption.
The government still controls all traditional media and is trying to extend its influence to privately owned outlets. But a degree of pluralism exists, as seen in the popularity of news sites such as 24.kgt, Kaktus.media and Kloop.kg, and the growth of investigative and data journalism. The media sector has been expanding in recent years, with more than 50 television companies. Radio and television are the country’s major news sources.
Kyrgyzstan’s political environment is very unstable and polarised. The country has experienced three revolutions since independence in 1991. Some media outlets are used by political leaders to advance their personal interests. Public institutions restrict journalists’ access to information.
Officials in recent years have been trying to strengthen censorship and to promulgate laws to restrict press freedom. After a fruitless attempt in 2020, President Sadyr Japarov signed a law in 2021 to restrict dissemination of so-called “false information” – a law that violates the constitution as well as international treaties, and limits press freedom.
Massive official support of pro-government publications distorts competition between outlets. In addition, officials threaten to introduce a bill to label independent media that receive financial support from abroad as “foreign agents”.
The country’s high level of corruption leads to public appreciation for investigative work on the subject. But most people do not share the critical opinions and democratic ideas that journalists disseminate.
Independent media are regularly condemned when they criticise the authorities, in particular for defamation. They are sometimes the target of cyber attacks following the publication of articles about corruption. Investigative journalists are targets of violence, as are reporters at rallies and demonstrations.