The state broadcast regulator in Kyrgyzstan has shuttered the popular Kyrgyz Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, known as Radio Azattyk, just three days ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, according to local and international press reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on the government to overturn the decision immediately and allow the station to resume broadcasting.
The Production Association for Relay Lines, Television and Radio Broadcasting (RPO RMTR) told Radio Azattyk Director Kiaz Moldokasymov that an upcoming auction for the station’s frequency had prompted the sudden closure, The Associated Press reported.
The auction date is March 10. The station normally signs an annual contract with RPO RMTR for the frequency; it submitted documents for renewal on February 8. Radio Azattyk reporters said they believed the suspension was related to politically sensitive parliamentary elections set for February 27, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.
The popular station’s national reach and its willingness to criticize government officials have been particularly important to rural audiences who have little other access to independent sources of news, according to local reports.
“We are deeply concerned by the government’s decision to silence an important news source in the run-up to parliamentary electionsÃ¢â‚¬”the very moment that citizens most need independent sources of information,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on the government to immediately reverse this act of censorship and to allow Radio Azattyk to return to the air.”
The broadcasts of Radio Azattyk are usually carried by 13 AM/FM affiliates across the country. The closure does not affect the shortwave or online broadcasts.