Kyrgyz protest against draft law on misinformation

Bishkek-Hundreds of Kyrgyz on Monday protested against a draft law they say will hit press and internet freedoms in Central Asia’s most democratic country.

The bill, which President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has yet to sign into law, would force websites to remove information deemed fake by a government organ without a court order being necessary.

The draft legislation against “manipulation of information” sailed through ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan’s pro-government parliament last week, despite the MP who proposed it receiving thousands of critical comments on Facebook.

Journalists have said that the law will be used to force them to remove anti-corruption investigations from their websites as the republic of more than six million prepares for parliamentary elections in the autumn.

The mostly young protesters who marched towards the country’s main house of government demanded Jeenbekov not sign the bill into law and that initiator Gulshat Asylbayeva resign her parliamentary mandate.

“For 30 years we’ve been living in a country where the (only thing) we can be proud of is our nature and freedom of speech,” said demonstrator Beksultan Usenaliyev.

“They are taking away that freedom,” he told AFP, also protesting parliament’s voting for “anti-people laws” during the pandemic when citizens are “sitting at home, trying to avoid contact”.

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