Over 20 years ago, the UN General Assembly proclaimed May 3rd as the World Press Freedom Day. In anticipation of memorable date Freedom House presented the annual report. According to it, freedom of the press in the world fell to its lowest level in a decade. Decline is caused partly by a serious regression in several Middle Eastern countries. Worsen of the situation noted in Turkey, Ukraine and some countries in East Africa. Among the eight countries with the lowest rating in the world are Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
""From 197 countries and territories assessed during 2013, in total 63 are rated as free, 68 - as partly free and 66 - as not free. Of the 12 countries in Eurasia none received the status of a free press freedom ranking. Only two countries - Moldova and Georgia - are recognized ad partly free. Basically, the factors that contributed to the deterioration level of freedom of speech are obvious attempts by governments to control the news by any means, even physical harassment of journalists," the director of Freedom House project in Kyrgyzstan Askat Dukenbayev said.
According to him, the country is still on the list of countries marked as "not free" by the level of freedom of speech and is at the 66th place having raised 3 positions for year. Kyrgyzstan is separated by 6 positions of being rated to rating of partly free countries in terms of press freedom.
What do you think about the situation with freedom of press in the KR? This question 24.kg news agency asked respondents.
Igor Shestakov, media expert:
- On the post-Soviet space we occupy one of the leading positions. Our media environment, media legislation literally meets all international standards. So, sometimes assessment of international organizations are surprising, they are not always objective.
Of course, there are attempts to limit freedom of the press, including the fact that we have a parliamentary party system. It is very important to parties to control the media. They understand that they form their image, and the public perceives it through media. There are such threats. Therefore, civil and media community must stand guard over the principles of freedom of speech.
Begaim Usenova, the head of Media Policy Institute public association:
- It is possible to express concern about the recent legislative initiatives that are being undertaken in our country, because they contradict to international standards and the Constitution of our country. In particular, the bill, that was recently adopted by the Parliament, on criminal liability for misleading false report on commission of a crime. This has already been discussed a lot. The main mission - to replace the word "denunciation" to "report", it says that the end does not justify the means. Denunciation is denunciation, and report is report. If the law is adopted, the downgrade in the Kyrgyz Republic will be reasonable.
Last year because of the fact of death of a teenager from the plague in the Issyk-Kul province, there was a conflict in which the government blamed the press center of the Ministry of Health Care that information was too transparent. That is, the Cabinet insisted on restricting information. This case also raises concerns because the state should assist to access to information, in order not to spread rumors, but it was reliable data.
In addition, undoubtedly: if a journalist disseminates false information, then he should be given a fair trial. This is provided by the civil legislation. Our institute deals with a large number of cases. And we can say that the law works. One should bring a case before the court, and journalists or media that violate the law, will really incur liability. So, we don't need new laws, we should enforce existing ones.
Sultan Kanazarov, the director of Azattyk Bishkek bureau radio:
- I really appreciate the level of press freedom in Kyrgyzstan. I think that our country is making big break in improving the transparency of processes, access to information. In 2011 there was a big political event for the decriminalization of articles for libel.
And initiatives of deputies are understandable; it is a normal desire to increase the responsibility of journalists and the people providing the information. This is the normal process, I don't see anything tragic in this.
Egamberdi Kabulov, independent journalist:
- Freedom of the press has turned into Bacchanalia. Current legislation allows everything. No responsibility for the spoken word. There are no constraints for defamation, falsehood, unverified and unreliable information. I support restoration of criminal liability for libel. It was canceled once. Article concerned not only journalists, but all citizens. But for some reason it wasn't paid attention to.
Elena Meshkova, observer of Slovo Kyrgyzstana newspaper:
- I think it is good. At least I personally, have never felt pressure for 15 years and nobody told me what I can't write about something. I worked under Akayev and Bakiyev. I'm just very cautious person, before publishing something I recheck and coordinate it for ten times.
Asel Minbayeva, editor-anchorwoman on NBT TV channel:
- Freedom of speech doesn't only exist in Kyrgyzstan, it is more than needed. Initially, the concept of "freedom of speech" was perceived as an opportunity of journalists to defend their point of view on a particular case. Now this concept is distorted to such an extent that some journalists believe their right to write nonsense, libel, slander, covering what they have written off the inner side of their cranium, as a freedom of speech. And if someone had the misfortune to pay attention to the unreliability of the information written by a journalist, writing fraternity begins to yell in unison, that their rights are infringed. Look at Kyrgyz language writing press. What good does such journalism give to society? But this example of the notorious, unlimited, distorted freedom of speech.
Askat Dukenbayev, project director of Freedom House in Kyrgyzstan:
- I must say at once that we have many people confuse freedom of press and freedom of speech. Freedom of speech in Kyrgyzstan is advancing, but the freedom of the press is the problem. Yes, in the country the number of media had increased after 2010. But for content positioning politically is engaged, i.e. we have few objective information. Our press is official only, that is pro-government or opposition only, committed. We have very little objective, consistent, qualified journalism. Perhaps this is partly because of, including, economic conditions. To change this situation, it is necessary to create the conditions and the so-called democratic mainstream that would promoted the core values of journalism.
Despite the overall positive sides, the problem of censorship still remains. The word "censorship" has negative character. So I think that it is not needed. At the same time, a journalist should base on his internal ethical standards. Large international companies have their own internal code of ethics, but there are some common concepts. In our laws on the media these norms are prescribed. Therefore, our journalists need only to comply with them, and then no additional restrictions will be needed.
Svetlana Begunova, deputy director of "Evraziycy - novaya volna" fund ("Eurasians - new wave"):
- As a journalist, I can write what I think. After Bakiyev times I didn't have problems connected with it. But my personal example -is not the whole situation. So I won't make a global conclusion on its basis. Let's just say I didn't have to feel the limit freedom of speech.
Arkadiy Dubnov, Russian expert on Central Asia countries:
- I think that the level of press freedom in Kyrgyzstan is still higher than in any other country in Central Asia. However, this is not evidence of professionalism and responsibility of journalists and editors.
- And what could be such evidence?
- The credibility of the sources of information and confidence in open-mind of an author.