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Kyrgyz Republic

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The law provides for freedom of speech and press, and citizens generally were free to exercise these rights. Self-censorship, however, was prevalent, and some journalists reported pressure from editors and political figures to bias their reporting on sensitive topics.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: As in earlier years, some journalists reported intimidation related to coverage of sensitive topics, such as interethnic relations, “religious extremism,” or the rise of nationalism. The trend was particularly salient against Uzbek-language media outlets. Others felt threatened for reporting critically on public figures. Some journalists admitted to self-censoring their reporting due to fear of reprisals.

Press and Media Freedoms: In recent years, there were attempts to prevent independent media from operating freely in the country. Tight government controls over news content on state television was widely acknowledged. In July the Alamudun District Court blocked the website of journalist Dayirbek Orunbekov and began criminal proceedings against him for not having complied with a previous court order. In December, opposition television station “September” was denied accreditation to cover the President’s annual year-end news conference. In a letter delivered to the outlet, the President’s Political Information Office explained the decision stemmed from the station’s “objectivity in presenting information” and their “involvement in the development of free speech.”

There was a small degree of foreign ownership of media through local partners. Russian-language television stations dominated coverage and local ratings. A number of Russia-based media outlets operated freely in the country, and the government treated them as domestic media.

Violence and Harassment: Some journalists were subject to harassment. Following the July blockage of Dayirbek Orunbekov’s website, on August 11, an informal group of activists, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Speech, expressed concern with the “political persecution” of Orunbekov, stating that the “life, safety, and freedom of the journalist is under threat, as he receives threatening telephone calls and text messages from unknown people.”

Censorship or Content Restrictions: As in previous years, journalists and NGO leaders alleged some news outlets instructed their reporters not to report critically on certain politicians or government officials. The sources also reported some news outlets received requests from offices of the government to report in a particular way or to ignore specific news stories.

NGO leaders and media contacts reported that state-owned broadcasters came under increasing pressure to run stories promoting government policies and initiatives and develop narratives that are critical of NGOs, opposition figures, and civil society activists. In a number of instances, multiple state-owned outlets ran at the same time nearly identical attack pieces on NGO leaders.

Libel/Slander Laws: While libel is not a criminal offense, NGO leaders described the False Accusations Amendments, passed in 2014, as a practical “recriminalizing of libel.” Journalists noted the law exposed journalists and the media to libel suits in civil courts that could bankrupt the outlets or journalists. In January 2015, however, the Supreme Court narrowed the reach of the law, holding that henceforth it would only apply in cases of knowingly making false statements in a police report but not to statements in the media.

Freedom House noted “insult” and “insult of public officials” were criminal offenses and that the law is detrimental to the development of freedom of speech and mass media in the country. The head of the Media Policy Institute reported her organization routinely defended journalists charged with libel and slander, and members of the media regularly feared the threat of lawsuits.


The government generally allowed access to the internet, including social media sites, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community reported police regularly monitored LGBTI chat rooms and dating sites and arranged meetings with LGBTI users of the sites in order to extort money from them.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, the internet penetration rate was 30 percent.

According to the Civic Initiative on Internet Policy, with reference to the State Communications Agency, approximately 30 websites remained blocked at year’s end. These sites involved groups that the government deemed to be terrorist or extremist, as well as sites advertising sexual services. Four of the sites involved the banned group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

On May 25, parliament passed an amendment to the law on countering extremist activity that authorizes the Ministry of Transport and Communications to block without a court order internet websites spreading extremist and terrorist materials. At year’s end there were no reports the government had used this law.


There were no government restrictions on academic freedom. Institutions providing advanced religious education must follow strict reporting policies, but they reported no restrictions on academic freedom.

The law provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.


The constitution provides for this right, and the government generally respected it, with some exceptions. Organizers and participants are responsible for notifying authorities of planned assemblies, but the constitution prohibits authorities from banning or restricting peaceful assemblies, even in the absence of prior notification. Local authorities, however, have the right to demand an end to a public action and, in the event of noncompliance, are empowered to take measures to end assemblies.


The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected it. NGOs, labor unions, political parties, and cultural associations must register with the Ministry of Justice. NGOs are required to have at least three members, and all other organizations at least 10 members. The Ministry of Justice did not refuse to register any domestic NGOs. The law prohibits foreign-funded political parties and NGOs, including their representative offices and branches, from pursuing political goals.

The government continued to maintain bans on approximately 20 “religiously oriented” groups it considered to be extremist, including al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkistan, the Kurdish People’s Congress, the Organization for the Liberation of Eastern Turkistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), the Union of Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Party of Turkistan, the Unification (Mun San Men) Church, Takfir Jihadist, Jaysh al-Mahdi, Jund al-Khilafah, Ansarullah At-Takfir Val Hidjra, Akromiya, Da’esh, Djabhat An Nusra, Katibat al-Imam al-Buhari, Jannat Oshiqlari, and the Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. Authorities also continued the ban on all materials or activities connected to A. A. Tihomirov also known as Said Buryatsky.

On August 8, the Ministry of Justice publicized list of extremist materials banned in the country.

Similar to 2015, numerous human rights activists reported continued arrests and prosecution of persons accused of possessing and distributing Hizb ut-Tahrir literature (see section 1.d.). Most arrests of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members occurred in the southern part of the country and involved ethnic Uzbeks. The government charged the majority of those arrested with possession of illegal religious material. In some cases NGOs alleged police planted Hizb ut-Tahrir literature as evidence against those arrested.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The law on internal migration provides for freedom of movement. The government generally respected this right, and citizens generally were able to move within the country with relative ease. Certain policies restricted internal migration, resettlement, and travel abroad. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other organizations to provide some protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

On August 4, President Atambaev signed an amendment to the law on combating terrorism and extremism that revokes Kyrgyz citizenship of anyone convicted of terrorist and extremist activities.

Foreign Travel: The law on migration prohibits travel abroad by citizens who have or had access to information classified as state secrets until the information is declassified.


UNHCR reported there were no internally displaced persons in the country as of September.


As of September UNHCR reported there were 339 refugees in the country. Among mandate and charter refugees, there were 237 from Afghanistan, 60 from Syria, 24 from Uzbekistan, 13 from Ukraine, and five from other countries. There were continued reports of Uzbek refugees seeking refugee status due to fear of abuse by the Uzbek government. In 2015 several of these individuals received status with the state migration authorities, allowing them to remain in the country legally.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law on refugees includes nondiscrimination provisions covering persons who were not refugees when they left their country of origin and extends the validity of documents until a final decision on status is determined by a court.

As of late 2015, there were 208 asylum seekers registered with UNHCR in the country. The Ministry of Labor, Migration, and Youth registered 166 asylum seekers, including 84 from Afghanistan, 44 from Uzbekistan, 17 from Ukraine, 12 from Syria, four from Turkmenistan, and smaller numbers from Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt. The other 42 persons were seeking registration from the government at year’s end.

Employment: UN-mandated refugees who lacked official status in the country do not have legal permission to work. They were therefore subject to exploitation by employers paying substandard wages, not providing benefits, and not complying with labor regulations. They could not file grievances with authorities. Refugees with official status in the country have legal permission to work.

Access to Basic Services: UN-mandated refugees and asylum seekers who lacked official status were ineligible to receive state-sponsored social benefits. Refugees with official status in the country have access to basic services.


UNHCR officials stated the country’s stateless persons fell into several categories. As of October 2015, there were an estimated 5,700 Uzbek women who married Kyrgyz citizens but never received Kyrgyz citizenship (many such women allowed their Uzbek passports to expire, and regulations obstructed their efforts to gain Kyrgyz citizenship). Other categories included Roma, individuals with expired Soviet documents, children born to one or both parents who were stateless, and children of migrant workers who renounced their Kyrgyz citizenship in the hope of becoming Russian citizens. The government denied access to social benefits and official work documents to stateless persons, who lacked sufficient legal standing to challenge exploitative labor conditions in court. As of August 1, UNHCR estimated 11,766 stateless persons were living in the country without documents, compared with 10,286 in 2015. The State Registration Service maintained its database of stateless persons based only on those who contacted it.

Of stateless persons registered by UNHCR, 109 were de jure stateless, 1,600 were de facto stateless, 122 were at risk of statelessness, and 623 were persons with undetermined nationality. The latter category is defined by UNHCR as persons who do not have a clearly defined citizenship, comprising mostly Soviet passport holders without birth certificates.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future