August 2023 | Officials take aim at Kloop, TikTok
Kyrgyz officials are taking steps to limit freedom of expression and access to information on the internet, as the Culture Ministry moved to ban TikTok and prosecutors sought the closure of a leading non-profit investigative media outlet, Kloop, in late August. Unlike other governments that have investigated TikTok on national security grounds, Kyrgyz officials argue it threatens youth morality by immersing “the user into a virtual world of short clips, and after watching them, teenagers try to mimic certain videos, some of which are life-threatening.” Kloop is being prosecuted on similar grounds, as prosecutors say its investigations into high-ranking officials cause “fear, anxiety, despair and panic” that may push readers to engage in abnormal sexual behaviour, succumb to addiction, or commit suicide.
July 2023 | Constitutional Court rules to allow matronymics
The Kyrgyz Constitutional Court partly sided with Altyn Kapalova, a single mother seeking to give her three children a matronymic instead of a patronymic, on 30 June, ruling that Kyrgyz citizens over the age of 16 could choose between the two on legal identity documents. The court ruled that the provision of the law “On Acts of Civil Status” mandating patronymic naming customs – where a first name is followed by one derived from the father’s name – was discriminatory, but that choosing between this and a matronymic derived from the mother’s name would be left up to adults to protect children from bullying. The decision was both celebrated as a win for gender equity and the rights of single mothers, as well as condemned by conservative Kyrgyz politicians who argued it was against established cultural norms. Kapalova has vowed to continue her campaign despite receiving death threats.
June 2023 | Parliament to regulate “harmful information”
A law adopted by the Kyrgyz parliament on 22 June provides for fines for a broad array of online content deemed to be “harmful information” to children, ranging from discussing “non-traditional sexual relations” to disrespecting parents or encouraging the consumption of drugs or alcohol. The Digital Development Ministry says it will work with Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to block such information. The Media Policy Institute, a local press freedom organisation, has said the Ministry appears to not understand how Meta operates, and is one of the opponents of the law who argue it is instead a tool of censorship and will restrict access to information in the country.
May 2023 | Ombudswoman forced out after critical report
Kyrgyz human rights ombudswoman Adyr Abdrakhmatova was removed from her post by parliament on 3 May, three weeks after delivering a report on government human rights violations that upset high-ranking officials. Abdrakhmatova’s dismissal less than a year into her five-year term was criticized by international human rights organizations, the European Union, and diplomats as a sign of weak parliamentary independence and a sign of an ongoing decline in respect for human rights.