Analytic EN

Brief explanatory note to the Analysis of the draft law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On Mass Media”

1. On September 28, 2022, the draft law “On Mass Media” was posted on the website of the Cabinet of Ministers in order to organize public discussion. It is supposed to replace the current Law “On Mass Media”, which was adopted in 1992. The initiator is the Information Policy Service of the Presidential Administration.
2. The analysis has shown of having serious risks of improper and unacceptable derogations from human rights guarantees of freedom of expression. Certain provisions of the draft law threaten the activities of independent Media and journalists, including foreign Media. It is envisaged to introduce a number of different grounds and requirements, which also contain extremely vague formulations of prohibitions, failure to comply with which can lead to the liquidation of the Media. The registration procedures of Mass Media are significantly complicated, the status of which will also apply to websites. A number of the proposed draft norms do not comply with the basic principle of legal certainty, which may lead to arbitrary application of the law in practice, in some articles there is a discriminatory approach. Based on the results of the analysis, we can conclude that the adoption of the draft law in the form in which it is posted for public discussion, may lead to the decline of democracy in Kyrgyzstan.


Key risks to fundamental human rights

3. The draft law establishes a ban on the establishment (creation) Mass Media from foreign individuals and legal entities, as well as stateless persons. Foreign Media and their correspondents will be able to operate in Kyrgyzstan only after registration/accreditation with the authorized state body. In the long term, the document contains a high probability of isolating information space of Kyrgyzstan from the outside world. Given the emerging trends in the rapid shrinkage of democratic space, there are well-founded concerns that this draft law, among other initiatives, is aimed at imposing severe restrictions on pluralism of opinion, which is an integral part of any democratic society. There are attempts to establish censorship in order to prevent the public dissemination of any information that would be undesirable which would be undesirable to the narrow interests of those persons, who possess state power.
4. Websites will be equated with the Media and will have to be registered, and their activities will be subject to more detailed state regulation.
5. An attempt is being made to establish restrictions on freedom of expression not only in relation to the Media, but in general on the Internet by establishing a general ban on the dissemination of information prohibited by various laws without specifying them. Formally, the proposed ban may cover a variety of forms of life of individuals, bloggers, human rights defenders, activists and other subjects in the process of exercising freedom of expression.
6. A number of specific restrictions and prohibitions on Media activities are established, some of which contain extremely vague wording, thus creating favorable conditions for the abuse of power by officials.
7. The possibilities of forced liquidation of Mass Media by suspending, terminating the activities of Mass Media, as well as invalidating the certificate of state registration of Mass Media are significantly expanded. A strict system of sanctions is proposed, which allows stopping the work of the Media in case of violations of the established prohibitions more than once within one year. The document does not take into account the severity of violations that could potentially be committed by the Media. In addition, the certificate of registration of the Media may be invalidated if the Media is not published (broadcast) for more than three months.
8. The procedures for registration and re-registration of Mass Media are becoming significantly more complicated, and the list of information to be provided to the registering authority is increasing. To get registration, it will be necessary to inform in advance the approximate subject, specialization; the expected frequency of publication, the maximum volume of Media; sources of funding; information about which other media the applicant is the founder, owner, editor-in-chief, etc.
9. The draft law stipulates that it enters into force from April 1, 2023. The document was posted for public discussion on September 28, 2022, therefore, it can be submitted to the Jogorku Kenesh after one month, i.e., not before October 29 of this year. Thus, the Parliament and other authorities have 5 months to consider it, if the above deadline is not changed. These circumstances indicate the desire of the Presidential Administration to speed up the adoption of the draft law in an expedited manner.
10. The draft law prescribes that all Media Outlets will have to be re-registered by 1 June 2023. At the same time, Media Outlets that have not undergone re-registration will be recognized as liquidated. Thus, Mass Media of Kyrgyzstan, as well as all other entities that will be recognized as Media Outlets under the provisions of the draft law under review, have only two months to pass the registration procedure. Such a short time frame, along with a whole mass of significant changes in the legal regulation of Media activities, may well result in many Media Outlets failing to get registration on time, which would automatically lead to their liquidation.
11. The Cabinet of Ministers is entrusted to submit the relevant draft laws to Parliament by April 1, 2023, as well as to adopt the necessary resolutions and other decisions aimed at implementing this draft law. These provisions may indicate that the executive authorities have actually already begun to develop the relevant documents, which, among other things, may be aimed at establishing liability mechanisms.