Kyrgyzstan major TV channel: Block Fergana and journalist Ulugbek Babakulov is enemy of people
In the evening on 27 May 2017 the major television channel of Kyrgyzstan aired an 8-minute report with the speaking name ‘Instigators,’ in which the Bishkek journalist Ulugbek Babakulov was accused of inciting ethnic hatred, and the website of the Fergana News Agency was called ‘biased’ and called to be blocked on the territory of the republic.
The reason for the report was an article about nationalistic statements in social networks published by Fergana on 23 May this year. Reporters believe that Fergana ‘disseminates provocative materials,’ trying to present Kyrgyzstan ‘a fascist state, whose population is completely nationalistic.’
The news story of the Public Television and Radio Company (OTRK) contains some fragments of this article, and suggestions of calling to a ‘severe criminal liability,’ as well as comments by ‘experts.’ In their opinion, journalists need ‘to jam the critical moments,’ and not ‘to drag out some sort of analysis of the social networks.’
Journalist Sadyrbek Cherikov believes that the work of Ulugbek Babakulov is ‘not the level of serious journalism’ and ‘mistake.’ And Doctor of Legal Sciences Kairat Osmonaliev says that his position is unambiguous: ‘For the distribution of such materials in the media ... only one sanction - the closure and complete non-recognition on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic.’
At the same time, the speakers themselves, speaking on the air of the OTRK, openly emphasise the ethnicity of the journalist (and the condemned), doubting his true ‘Kyrgyzness.’ So, Ainura Arzymatova: ‘People like Babakulov ... are just enemies of Kyrgyzstan. He positions himself so that his roots are Kyrgyz, but he, in my opinion, opposes the Kyrgyz state and is against the Kyrgyz people.’
Report is available in YouTube with English subtitles
‘It is not the first time that, having raised the issue of the growth of nationalistic sentiments in the country, I myself become the object of attacks and accusations of “incitements,” Ulugbek Babakulov says, ‘exactly two years ago, in May 2015, I told about the programmes having an ultra-nationalist character with the speaking title “Lions and Jackals” on the main state television channel of the country. In the programme, the chairman of the National Union of Writers, a public figure, and poet Abdrakhman Alymbaev compared Kyrgyz with lions, and representatives of other ethnic groups - Uzbeks, Uighurs and others - with jackals.’
‘After this publication, various nationalist organisations complained to GKNB (the State Committee for National Security, an analogue of the Russian FSB - note by Fergana) accusing me of fomenting ethnic hatred: until I translated this broadcast into Russian, everything had been fine they say. And I raised the topic and thereby stirred up public opinion. GKNB warned me saying that there are “moments that can irritate some representatives of the titular ethnos [ethnic group of the Kyrgyz]” in my article…’
‘The current situation is exactly the same. I talked about nationalist comments under nationalistic posts on Facebook. I just translated the comments from Kyrgyz into Russian and presented them to the public so that people understand what individual representatives of the titular ethnos write about. And now they are again trying to present me as guilty of fomenting inter-ethnic hatred.’
‘There is no “instigation” in Mr Babakulov's article,’ editor-in-chief of Fergana News Agency Daniil Kislov is sure, ‘the topic of inter-ethnic relations remains very acute for Kyrgyzstan, but it must be discussed openly, and not driven into a corner. But the authorities do not want to notice the Nazi rhetoric that flows from the Kyrgyz-language media and from social networks in Kyrgyz. Once you quote these words in the Russian-language media - they immediately take offence, as if we wash the dirty linen in public.’
‘It should be noted that during the past year and especially in anticipation of the upcoming elections of the head of state, Kyrgyz authorities have increased the propaganda and judicial pressure on the opposition and the media, which international human rights activists had already noted. Moreover, every time there is one pattern. First - a massive manipulation of public opinion, the preparation of the audience. And after such statements sounded on TV a journalist or politician is usually deprived of liberty,’ Mr Kislov said.
‘Such events, such ‘bullying’ - not new for us. Several years ago, a similar situation - the blocking of our website by the decision of the parliament and the heavy accusations of ‘inciting’ - we have already experienced them. It happened immediately after the events of June 2010, when an inter-ethnic carnage broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan as a result of which the Uzbek minority suffered much more,’ Mr Kislov continued.
‘We tried to provide the most neutral and truthful coverage of events from all sides, yet giving priority to the voices of the victims. “Patriots” wildly disliked it - both in the street and in the power. I take these new attacks on Ulugbek as a personal challenge and a declaration of war on our publication, one of the few independent media in Central Asia. I would not be surprised if our journalist or our publication is brought to court,’ Daniil Kislov said.
According to the editor, it is obvious that this story was produced on the main television channel of the country after the regular publication of Mr Babakulov dedicated to the personality and career of the potential president of Kyrgyzstan (protégé of Atambayev) Sooronbai Jeenbekov.
‘Against the background of well-known lawsuits filed in Kyrgyzstan against well-known journalists, leading media, and political opposition leaders, it becomes clear that the purpose of this propaganda campaign of the state is to jam the voice of our agency. It is especially important for the authorities to do this before the election of the head of state in order to finally clean up the information field of the country,’ Mr Kislov concluded.