(As delivered in Russian on November 15, 2022)
Dear Nurlan Turgunbekovich, representatives of the presidential administration and parliament, Ms. Grawe, dear journalists and civil society participants – good morning.
“Where there is wisdom, there is justice; there is no falsehood.” [Kyrgyz saying]
It is an honor to be here today,and participate in this discussion where we seek greater wisdom through an exchange of views on these key legislative initiatives.
A free press, skilled journalists, engaged citizens and bloggers are all critical elements of the Kyrgyz Republic’s long-standing and dynamic media sector – a heritage that sets Kyrgyzstan apart from its peer nations. Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index 2021 ranked Kyrgyzstan 79th out of 180 countries worldwide, noting the Kyrgyz media’s exceptional pluralism and freedom in comparison to other countries in post-Soviet Central Asia.
Independent Kyrgyz media have served the country well time and time again. Just recently, when conflict flared up in Batken, independent Kyrgyz media and bloggers were quick to react. With access to the conflict zone, skilled reporting, and large audiences, Kyrgyz media were able to show the world the conflict and the need for humanitarian assistance, informing both domestic and international audiences. Thanks to independent media, Kyrgyzstan won the information war.
A free, independent Kyrgyz media is not just a proud part of Kyrgyzstan’s past, but a critical element of its prosperous future. As we have seen time and time again, Kyrgyz media are vital to rooting out corruption, uncovering malfeasance, and highlighting solutions.
In Kyrgyzstan, as in all countries, only an independent and diverse media can provide citizens with the information they need to hold their government accountable and defend democracy.
A free media makes the Kyrgyz Republic stronger, which is no doubt why a free media and its right to freedom of speech is protected under the Kyrgyz constitution.
In light of these facts, the United States shares the concerns of the Kyrgyz media community and civil society organizations that recent and proposed legislation will weaken, rather than strengthen, independent Kyrgyz media.
The media understands that ensuring press freedom while mitigating concerns such as disinformation can be difficult. Kyrgyzstan is not alone in exploring new legal frameworks for media. However, experience has shown that the most effective laws, on media and in general, are the result of inclusive open discussions, like today’s discussion.
I look forward to hearing the analysis to be presented, and I wish you all a fruitful discussion.