On November 24, the Media Dialogue project facilitated a meeting with media chief editors, civil society representatives, bloggers / digital activists and the expert community consisting of lawyers, economists, political and socio-economic experts in Bishkek to discuss avenues for strengthening the independent information space and to safeguard freedom of speech in the Kyrgyz Republic. The meeting was called after the draft of a proposed new Constitution was posted on the website of Zhogorku Kenesh, which includes elements that could seriously harm freedom of speech in the country. The participants emphasized the need to join forces and produce quality content to raise awareness on these potential harmful elements. Semetey Amanbekov, one of the participants and a Deputy Head of the Independent Union of Journalists, emphasized that “Article 23 of the draft Constitution threatens freedom of speech. It is important to have a platform where we [representatives of media and civil society] can all communicate, share information and raise awareness on this threat, in an effort to prevent any infringement of freedom of speech and attacks on journalists”.
Speaking about the increasing attacks on journalists and bloggers, mainly from fake accounts, the media representatives emphasized that they are out of politics and will continue to do their job of covering the situation and calling for the safeguarding of freedom of speech in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Participants agreed to regularly hold periodic meetings to discuss avenues to safeguard freedom of speech with participation of the wider circles of journalists and editors. Most of the invitees are the members of informal Coalition, which was recently formed and consists of representatives of the media sector, civil society organizations, civil society activists, professional communities, bloggers / digital activists, lawyers, economists, political and socio-economic experts. The coalition was formed at the initiative of the media sector in November, after an increase in attacks on journalists, media, digital activists and civil society organizations. In connection with the current situation, the coalition has intensified its work and created conditions for the exchange of information with the media to provide quality content to explain to the wider public the threats that the new draft Constitution contains, both for human and civil rights and for freedom of speech.