From CENASIA@LISTS.MCGILL.CA Thu May 3 20:31:58 2001
Date: Thu, 3 May 2001 23:15:18 +0500
Sender: CENASIA Former Soviet Republic—Central Asia Discussion <CENASIA@LISTS.MCGILL.CA>
From: Chris Schuepp <Schuepp@INTERNEWS.KG>

International Press Freedom Day marked in the Kyrgyz Republic

Internews Network in the Kyrgyz Republic, press release, 3 May 2001

To mark the International Press Freedom Day 2001, more than 100 journalists from the Kyrgyz Republic signed the Bishkek Declaration on Promoting Independent Media in the Kyrgyz Republic, calling for focused international support and better donor coordination to keep the independent media alive. w The journalists also urge international representatives to raise press freedom and journalists' rights issues with the Kyrgyz government, which has made a number of commitments by signing international documents but not always lives up to the commitments made.

The Bishkek Declaration also quotes Articles 16 and 36 of the Kyrgyz constitution which state that Every person in the Kyrgyz Republic shall enjoy the right to free expression and dissemination of one's thoughts, ideas, opinions, freedom of literary, artistic, scientific and technical creative work, freedom of the press, transmission and dissemination of information and that Culture, art, literature, science and mass media shall be free.

The Bishkek Declaration is disseminated to foreign representatives on May 3rd, 2001, two days prior to the 10th Anniversary of the signing of the Kyrgyz constitution and has the support from more than 100 journalists from TV, radio and press from all population-centers in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Internews Network in the Kyrgyz Republic together with Internews offices in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan produced a 15-minute film on Press Freedom in the CIS in which the feelings of the citizens of the Former Soviet Union towards press freedom are expressed. The Internews office in Bishkek distributed Russian and Kyrgyz-language versions of the film to the following stations countrywide: Ayan TV (Naryn), EMTV (Kara-Kol), Osh TV, Keremet (both in Osh), KTM (Mailuu-Suu) and Pyramida (Bishkek). All stations will broadcast the film on May 3rd, 2001, the International Press Freedom Day.

Internews would like encourage all independent journalists in the Kyrgyz Republic on Press Freedom Day to keep up the good work and to keep serving the public with independent news to make the Kyrgyz Republic a truly democratic country.

The Bishkek Declaration on promoting independent media in the Kyrgyz Republic

Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN General Assembly Resolution 59 (1) December 14th, 1946 stating that freedom of information is a fundamental human right, Articles 16 (1 and 2) as well as Article 36 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic stating that In the Kyrgyz Republic, basic human rights and freedoms shall be recognized and guaranteed in accordance with universally accepted norms and principles of international law and international treaties on the issues of human rights, which have been ratified by the Kyrgyz Republic, that Every person in the Kyrgyz Republic shall enjoy the right to free expression and dissemination of one's thoughts, ideas, opinions, freedom of literary, artistic, scientific and technical creative work, freedom of the press, transmission and dissemination of information and that Culture, art, literature, science and mass media shall be free, We declare that:

1. Consistent with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.), the establishment, maintenance and fostering of independent, pluralistic and free media is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in the Kyrgyz Republic.

2. By independent and free media, we mean media independent from governmental, political or economical control, or from control of materials and infrastructure essential for the production and dissemination of newspapers, magazines, periodicals and TV/radio broadcasting.

3. By pluralistic media, we mean the end of monopolies of any kind and the existence of the greatest possible number of newspapers, magazines, periodicals, TV and radio stations reflecting the widest possible range of opinion within the community.

4. The independence of the Kyrgyz Republic in 1991 gave the country a historic chance to develop into a truly democratic country based on universal standards of human rights and that we, the journalists of the Kyrgyz Republic, have the duty and are ready to support the citizens on the way to democracy.

5. Despite many positive developments over the last ten years, the media in the Kyrgyz Republic still have not reached complete independence. Censorship, self-censorship, economical pressure, bureaucratic hardships and tax requirements prevent the media from being more effective in helping the citizens to implement democratic values and express themselves freely through newspapers, TV and radio stations.

6. Libel is still a criminal offense according to the Kyrgyz legislation and journalists are taken to court and sentenced to prison terms, which does not correspond with international standards of journalists' rights.

7. While the mass media legislation in the Kyrgyz Republic corresponds to a large extend with international standards and values, the implementation of the existing laws is not always guaranteed because laws are subject to interpretation and are used to restrict freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

8. To encourage and consolidate the positive changes taking place in the Kyrgyz Republic and to counter the negative ones, the international community—specifically governmental and non-governmental organizations, development agencies and professional associations—should as a matter of highest priority support the development, establishment and maintenance of non-governmental media outlets to give Kyrgyz citizens in the whole country greater access to information and represent all possible views and opinions held by the population of the Kyrgyz Republic.

9. All international funding should aim to encourage the principles of pluralism and independence, which are, first of all, implemented through freedom of speech and freedom of publication. Therefore, we encourage international donors to coordinate their assistance to prevent duplication of efforts and to multiply the effects of their support for independent media in the Kyrgyz Republic.

10. To assist the preservation of the freedoms enumerated above, the establishment and maintenance of truly independent, representative associations of journalists, broadcasters, editors and publishers is a matter of priority.

11. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression issues should be high priority at meetings between foreign representatives / international NGO leaders and the Kyrgyz government and the international community should urge the Kyrgyz authorities to follow the standards they set for the country in the constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic.

12. Independent media form an essential cornerstone of a free and open society and we are determined—knowing our responsibilities as journalist - to do all we can to support the democratic processes in the Kyrgyz Republic for the benefits of the entire population.