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Human Rights Developments
The Kyrgyzstan government's crackdown on the press during 1995 marked a sharp break from its four-year policy of encouraging the independent media. To compound last year's government-ordered closing of two newspapers, the government this year began to prosecute individual journalists. In areas other than press freedoms, Kyrgyzstan continued to foster human rights protection and monitoring and in February successfully conducted the country's first multiparty parliamentary election since becoming an independent state.

The crackdown on free speech, which began in mid-1994 with the closure of the parliamentary newspaper Svobodnye Gory (Free Mountains) and a newspaper insert called Politika (Policy), sharpened in 1995 with arrests and trials of journalists for their criticism of President Askar Akaev. On July 11, 1995, editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Res Publica Zamira Sydykova and her deputy, Tamara Slashcheva, were sentenced under article 128, part 2, of the criminal code (slander with the use of mass media) to one and a half years in prison for their articles criticizing President Akaev. Upon sentencing, they were released on their own recognizance. The court forbade both women from working as journalists, a punishment provided for under article 27 of the criminal code. According to recent reliable reports, on October 5, 1995, the prosecutor's office summoned Tamara Slashcheva and another journalist, Marina Sivashova, for interrogation in connection with an article in support of Kubanychbek Apas, former candidate to Kyrgyzstan's parliament.

Proceedings against Dr. Apas began in June 1995, also under article 128, part 2, after the newspapers Kyrgyz Rukhu (The Kyrgyz Spirit) and Res Publica published his articles sharply criticizing President Akaev. Apas's political affiliations appeared to have cut back his job prospects; a surgeon, he had not been able to find a decent job since he defended his doctoral dissertation in late 1994.

According to the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a nongovernmental Russian organization, police beat several journalists, including Vladimir Pirogov, a correspondent for the tri-weekly newspaper Slovo Kyrgyzstana (The Word of Kyrgyzstan), and Zamira Sydykova during a meeting of leaders of Turkic-language countries in Bishkek on August 26-27.

The February parliamentary elections revealed some promising signs that Kyrgyzstan fostered true democracy. Twelve parties ran candidates for the parliament, collectively representing a broad array of platforms, from communist to national-patriotic. On February 27, President Akaev established an independent thirty-four-person public commission to investigate allegations of scattered voting violations.

The Right to Monitor
There were no known impediments to monitoring. On the contrary, Kyrgyzstan continued to foster human rights work.

The Role of the International Community
The international community extended humanitarian and development assistance to Kyrgyzstan this year. In December 1994, the OSCE seminar on "Free Media and Free Association" drew strong participation on these well chosen topics.

The U.S. government reportedly raised concern over the alarming backsliding in protection for free speech during meetings with Kyrgyz government officials. The State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994 gave a solid and honest analysis of current problems, such as violations of free speech and due process and corruption in the judiciary.

The Work of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki focused its efforts during 1995 on monitoring free expression in the republic. The chairman of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki's advisory board met with President Akaev and with human rights activists in Kyrgyzstan in June to discuss our concerns about, inter alia, restrictions on free speech.

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