Fergana News Agency blocked in Kyrgyzstan by court order
At the same time, the editorial office has not received any notification of any case against Fergana yet, the blocking was found accidentally: readers from Kyrgyzstan could not visit our site and had to contact the provider.
At the same time, it became known that criminal proceedings had been started against Ulugbek Babakulov, a freelance correspondent for Ferghana, who analysed the social networks finding comments directed against the Uzbeks as an ethnic minority, after which he prepared the article named “People are like beasts. There are calls for reprisals against the Sarts in the Kyrgyz segment of social networks.”
However, instead of using this material to reveal real nationalists, the authorities and the pro-government media are accusing Mr Babakulov of inciting ethnic hatred. For example, following this article the major public Kyrgyz OTRK TV channel in its eight-minute programme accused Mr Babakulov of inciting ethnic hatred, called Fergana News Agency “biased” and demanded to block it on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, the speakers who spoke on the air of the OTRK openly focused on the ethnicity of the journalist they condemned doubting his true “Kyrgyzness.”
As “Zanoza” reports, the Investigative Department of the State National Security Committee (GKNB) has started criminal proceedings against Mr Babakulov on 9 June under Article 299, Clause 1 (“instigation of national (inter-ethnic), racial, religious or inter-regional enmity”) of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic. GKNB says that Babakulov “published a number of provocative articles on the Fergananews.com website and other resources aimed at inciting ethnic hatred and enmity, creating prerequisites for aggravation of inter-ethnic relations.”
GKNB affirms that it has received confirmation that “on the eve of the next anniversary of the tragic events of June 2010, Mr Babakulov published these provocative articles pursuing a self-serving goal of obtaining ‘political asylum’ in third countries.”
“I'm almost 50 years old. My eldest son is a university student, three others are studying at school. I have been building my big house and a farm for almost ten years. Do you think that I would like to exchange all these my labours for the illusory refugee's dream? Do you think that I do not know what difficulties challenge refugees? Without the knowledge of language, finance…”
“It is nonsense and the ravings of special services to justify their failures. I did everything possible to help me, my children and other people to live well in their homeland - in Kyrgyzstan,” Ulugbek Babakulov commented GKNB statement for Fergana.
“According to the conclusions of the philological and political expertise carried out by the specialists of the National Academy of Sciences of Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz National University, the publications of some users bear calls aimed at inciting inter-ethnic hostility, humiliation of dignity, insults, which may be the reason for inducing citizens to illegal, antisocial actions,” GKNB reported.
It could be assumed that the specialists and GKNB, who delivered the expertise, do not understand the difference between quotations and author's speech. But here they are: there is a campaign to block independent voices ahead of presidential elections scheduled for autumn 2017.
Dissatisfaction with Fergana and some other independent media and journalists is expressed in Kyrgyzstan at the highest level. President Almazbek Atambayev uses every opportunity for this. Earlier in March, during the ceremony of accepting credentials from ambassadors of a number of states, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev criticised the work of some media outlets, mentioning Ulugbek Babakulov and Daniil Kislov in a negative context. Mr Babakulov responded the president with an open letter on the Fergana website, which contained criticism of the government's increasing pressure on independent media.
President Atambayev could manage kicking representatives of independent media and civil society that he dislikes in his appeal to the people of Kyrgyzstan today, in connection with the seventh anniversary of the tragic events of June 2010: “Disguised as human rights defenders, experts and journalists, some of them are specifically trying to aggravate the inter-ethnic situation, cynically using for this even the approach of the next anniversary of the June tragedy,” the president said. It's easy to guess who he means.
Fergana had already been blocked in Kyrgyzstan - in 2011, by a decision of the parliament. The website was allowed to be unlocked only in 2013, which was preceded by the submission of a lawsuit by the news agency against the State Communications Agency of Kyrgyzstan. In the interval between these two events, the editor-in-chief of Fergana Daniil Kislov was accepted by Almazbek Atambayev, and during the conversation the president of Kyrgyzstan said: “Personally, I believe that if you are a politician, you should prepare yourself to be criticised by the media, mud-slinging, even to grisly stories.”
“But shutting down websites or newspapers is not a way of fighting, it's not the way,” the president said. When asked what way it is necessary to “fight” with this, President Atambayev answered: “Through open debates, the provision of documents and facts. I'm disappointed that I can’t visit Ferghana.Ru today.”
Would President Atambayev be upset this time?..