Improving, but could do even better
The pluralism of the Kyrgyz media is exceptional in Central Asia, but the polarisation of Kyrgyz society is reflected in the media and in the environment journalists work in. The authoritarian excesses that preceded the 2017 presidential election have ended, and have been replaced by a much calmer environment. Former President Almazbek Atambayev and his successor, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, withdrew their lawsuits against critical media outlets and at the same time cancelled the astronomical damages awards, asset freezes and travel bans that had been imposed on these outlets and their staff. These moves were indicative of a desire to defuse tension but not of greater judicial independence.
However, until defamation legislation is reformed (to limit the size of the damages that can be awarded and to eliminate special protection for the president), journalists are threatened by the possibility of the pendulum swinging back. There is still a great deal of self-censorship on certain subjects, such as inter-ethnic relations. Although much hate speech has gone unpunished, some social network users have been the targets of ill-advised judicial proceedings on the grounds of combatting “extremism.”
98 in 2018
31 in 2018