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Kyrgyzstan has been plunged into chaos this week after parliamentary election results on Monday led to wide-scale protests throughout the country, which have seen the prime minister resign as a result.
Protests began as soon as the results were announced and quickly became violent, with protesters storming the parliament building and setting parts of it on fire. “By 9 o’clock there were the sounds of explosions and grenades,” said journalist and writer Caroline Eden in our interview with her, who has been watching the protests unfold from the capital city Bishkek.
One group managed to break into prison and release former president President Atambayev from jail, where he was serving a sentence for corruption. Hundreds have been injured in the protests and one person has died.
Many in the country felt the elections were irrelevant even before they took place, and some had called for them to be postponed due to the Covid pandemic. Despite this, the elections went ahead but arguments between the current and former leaders of the governing Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan meant that the party did not take part, with many smaller splinter groups taking its place.
In the event, just four parties on the ballot managed to get a big enough share of the vote to win some of the 120 seats in parliament that were up for grabs. The party that won the smallest number of seats – just 13 – was the only one of the four that were in opposition to the incumbents.
The Central Electoral Commission annulled the result a day later.
Listen to Eden’s interview in full about the atmosphere on the ground and what it all means for freedoms in the country.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][three_column_post title=”You might also like to read” category_id=”581″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Access to the website of independent news agency Ferghana was blocked this week by telecommunications company Kyrgyztelecom in response to a formal request from the Kyrgyz state communications agency. In a resolution made public on 16 June last year, the Kyrgyz parliament called for access to the site to be blocked on the grounds that its coverage of violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 had been “subjective” and “provocative”.
Shokhrukh Saipov, the Osh-based editor and publisher of news website Uz Press, was last week attacked by unidentified individuals. Saipov had been attending a media seminar in Osh, and was found unconscious with his nose and several teeth broken on a street in the village of Aravan, 17 miles outside of the city. Family members have said Saipov was hospitalised overnight and diagnosed with a severe concussion and partial memory loss. The journalist is also the younger brother of Alisher Saipov, the prominent reporter killed in southern Kyrgyzstan in October 2007, and whose murder remains unsolved.
Kyrgyzstan’s Central Elections Committee (CEC) has decided to bar web-based news media from participating in the campaign ahead of the 30th October presidential election. Eleven news sites have been denied accreditation to inform voters on pre-election developments. While some NGOs have claimed the move restricts citizens’ access to information, a CEC spokeswoman said, “the Kyrgyz law on mass media does not regard web-based news agencies as media outlets; that is why they cannot generate revenue from promotion of the candidates.”
The decision comes just weeks after Kyrgyzstan became the first country in former Soviet Central Asia to decriminalise libel, a move hailed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as a boost for press freedom.