Kyrgyz restores BBC programming
The BBC has resumed local language broadcasts in Kyrgyzstan two weeks after having its programming pulled off the air over an alleged breach of contractual obligations, the British station said Wednesday.
Authorities have drawn criticism from government opponents for the recent halting of broadcasts by the BBC and U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Kyrgyz Service, reported AP.
Pressure on the international broadcasters comes amid growing public frustration with the worsening economic climate and widespread power shortages in the impoverished Central Asian nation.
BBC programs started airing on the local state broadcaster again earlier this week, the station's Kyrgyz office said.
Melis Eshimkanov, who heads the state broadcaster, says the BBC has failed to live up to a pledge to install four relay stations across the country. He also said the only two relay stations built so far are near the border with authoritarian Uzbekistan, where the BBC is banned from operating.
Government critics accuse Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan of coordinating efforts to clamp down on independent media in the region.
"It seems quite likely that Kyrgyzstan's decision to put pressure on the BBC is connected with the station's broadcasts to Uzbekistan," Aziza Abdurasulova, head of the Kylym-Shamy rights advocacy group.
The BBC was forced to close its World Service operation in Uzbekistan by a campaign of official harassment after its coverage of the government's violent suppression of a protest in the eastern town of Andijan in May 2005.
RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, has been off the air since October.
The station breached its contracts with the Kyrgyz National Radio and Television Corporation and gave excess coverage to opposition activities, Eshimkanov said.
Eshimkanov said earlier this week that Radio Azattyk will not be permitted to brodcast until the station submits its programs to state authorities for prior approval.
RFE/RL has rejected any suggestion it would amend its output to ensure a return to the airwaves.
"We are not going to change the content of our broadcasts in order to please the government or anyone else," said Julia Ragona, RFE/RL chief broadcast operations officer.
If a resolution is not reached, Radio Azattyk may eventually be forced to broadcast exclusively on shortwave for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, RFE/RL said.