In Kyrgyzstan, journalists are engaged in an unusual business. Instead of writing about the rallies, they themselves now stand in pickets.
Representatives of the fourth government launched a struggle for their rights not only in the central squares of Bishkek, the journalistic protest rallies swept through the southern regions of the republic. It is curious that the state press was at the forefront of protest sentiments. The one that, according to the recently signed presidential decree, was released. In December, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister Adakhan Madumarov, announced at a journalistic forum that the press was now separated from the state. “All official publications will cease to exist, including departmental ones. There is no need for them at all. For the state budget, the PR of individual executives is very superimposed, ”said the deputy prime minister, who oversees the media. Unfortunately, in reality everything happens differently.
At the end of January, according to the order of the Prime Minister, Bakyt Orunbekov, the editor of the Kyrgyz Tuusu government publication, is replaced. The official version of the incident, which came from the government office, appeared in the newspaper publications directed against the head of the Cabinet of Ministers, which was obviously ordered. At this time, approximately 70% of the collective wrote dispatches to the president and parliament, demanding that the former editor be left in the position. “We are ready to take any measures to keep Orunbekov at his post. We believe that this is unfair - he worked as chief editor for a year and raised her newspaper to its feet, ”the creative team of Kyrgyz Tuusu said. Orunbekov himself explained the appearance of these publications in an attempt to express in the newspaper a wide range of opinions regarding the current authorities. At the same time, the ex-editor believes that this is a formal reason. “In fact, the main reason lies in the upcoming denationalization of our newspaper. Someone really wanted to put in my place a more comfortable person, ”the retired editor believes. Adding that the newspaper did not receive any material support from the White House. Everything was purchased, including equipment and paper due to the economic activities of the editorial board. The only help from the state is an edited floor in the center of Bishkek. For several days, supporters of the ex-editor patiently held protest actions alternately, either in front of the Government House or at the walls of parliament. The moment is true in the case of Kyrgyz Tuusu came at a meeting of the relevant parliamentary committee, with the participation of representatives of the government and the editorial staff. After listening to the claims of both parties, the deputies came to the conclusion that the actions of the Prime Minister were within the framework of the prerogatives, which include the appointment and removal of heads of government newspapers. A number of deputies expressed the opinion that the official newspaper could not afford to print materials of a certain kind, which would be excusable for independent publications. It is curious that before the March revolution, representatives of the opposition, some of whom ended up in government and parliamentary seats, actively advocated that the pro-government press be critical of government officials. In this regard, it is interesting, but what position should the privatized newspaper, whose controlling stake in the first stage will remain in the hands of the state, should take?
“State media journalists believed too early after the March revolution that now they can work according to BBC standards. The desire of the press to work objectively and independently is not enough, it is necessary that the authorities are ready for this, ”said Jyldyz Muslimova, ex-vice-president of the state television and radio company. Despite the fact that 80% of the state radio team spoke for Muslimov, with the arrival of which the entire political spectrum of the country sounded on the official air for the independence of Kyrgyzstan for the first time, the presidential decree on the appointment of another leader remained in force.
Protests against the appointment or, on the contrary, the removal by local administrations of editors of official newspapers were also held in the south - Osh and Jalal-Abad. In particular, the staff of the Jalal-Abad state newspaper Akyikat announced a strike, demanding a change of editor from the state administration.
“At the beginning, there is a personnel change in the media, which turns the collective into an obedient tool, and then, using this tool, they begin to destroy their political opponents and free-thinking. This is how the foundations of authoritarianism are laid, ”says the leader of the Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, Toktoyim Umetalieva.
However, the course of events shows that journalistic groups that go under privatization do not want to be such a tool. The situations that have arisen also showed that there is no place to wait for the right help for those who want to work in an independent press format. Thus, the leaders of a number of leading national human rights organizations declaring the protection of the principles of freedom of speech and the press, in the situation with the Kyrgyz Touch and on the radio, immediately made it clear that this was not their problem. It turns out once the state media, albeit with them and understands the power itself. Media representative Shamaral Maychiev, who deals with legal problems of the press, believes that today public figures from the press are needed who, on behalf of the journalistic community, will have a dialogue with government agencies on emerging conflict issues. The paradox is that among the existing 7,000 NGOs that fully protect the rights of journalists of the organization, as recent events show, there is no Kyrgyzstan. The Osh resource media has already issued a statement in which it was proposed to create a Public Committee to establish public control, transparency and publicity of the process of denationalization of the press. “The government needs to assess everything that happens around state-owned media and develop a clear mechanism for reforming them, resolving these issues taking into account public opinion, and not on the sidelines,” reads the statement.
It is possible that such conflicts could have been avoided if the process of reforming the press had initially been open and transparent. If during the development of the concept, the opinion of the civil and first of all media community was taken into account. Moreover, the full list of members of the state commission on privatization was not even made public, let alone the mechanisms for implementing this democratic project. Many editors of district and regional newspapers do not have basic information about the processes of incorporation. In this unpredictable situation, it is quite understandable that a number of regional publications are willing not to leave administrative custody.
The presence of a democratic idea of reforming the press is not yet a worthy step towards its implementation. As Thomas Jefferson wrote several centuries ago, “the state may become confused by what the newspapers write, but it will die if they shut up”. This statement today is very relevant for Kyrgyzstan.