Kyrgyzstan keeps Radio Azattyk (RFE/RL) off the air
Kyrgyz authorities said today that, RFE/RL's popular Kyrgyz-language service, will not be restored to the airwaves unless its programs are submitted to the government for prior approval, the Azattyk headquarters reported.
Melis Eshimkanov, the head of Kyrgyzstan's state-run radio and TV broadcaster, said the programs are "too negative and too critical" of the government and claimed that powerful Kyrgyz figures are behind the decision to keep Radio Azattyk off the air, reported 24.kg.
The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, in turn, called Kyrgyz authorities not to interfere with the Radio Azattyk broadcasting.
Eshimkanov said "the problem with Radio Azattyk is the content." He said Kyrgyzstan will not honor its current contract with RFE/RL now, nor when it expires at the end of the year unless Azattyk clears its radio and TV reports with the government in advance - or "guarantees" they will not be offensive.
The official reason of the Azattyk programming removal was the indebtedness of the Radio to the corporation. The leadership meant $19,000 which allegedly was not transferred to the corporation's account.
"We have about 1,400 partners around the world and this the first time when we have to come to the place to settle the technical issue. As it turned out, the amount mentioned above arrived in Kyrgyzstan five times and was sent back to Washington because of the missing 16-number barcode of the Kyrgyz TV Corporation. We met the director of the corporation, who assured us that there in no political context. I believe that we will see positive results," Harry Thatcher, the RFE/RL marketing and foreign broadcasting director said.
Another known radio station BBC was removed from Kyrgyzstan's airwaves earlier in December. The opposition comments the closure of independent media in Kyrgyzstan as a distinct violence against free media and press.