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Tuesday 21 February 2006
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KYRGYZSTAN: NGOs accuse government of smear campaign

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

BISHKEK, 2 Feb 2006 (IRIN) - Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Kyrgyzstan, particularly those funded from abroad, report increasing pressure on their activities under the government of newly installed President Kurmanbek Bakiev, most notably through some state media which, they say, portray them as agents of the West.

There are reportedly some 7,000 NGOs registered in the mountainous Central Asian state, but only some 300 are currently active, mostly foreign-funded.

"This is a concerted effort by the government to stifle the NGO and civil society movement of this country," Tolikan Ismailova, head of Citizens Against Corruption, a human rights NGO in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, charged on Thursday.

"Quite a lot of high placed government officials wish to limit and restrict NGOs funded from abroad," claimed Edil Baisalov, head of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, a prominent NGO in the former Soviet republic, citing a long-standing suspicion of NGOs operating in the country by the authorities - similar to the current situation in Russia today.

"The ongoing search for the external enemy is very characteristic of Soviet society and unfortunately still part of Kyrgyz culture," Baisalov said. "This effort is too similar to Russian President Putin's law on NGOs due to take effect in April, allowing the state to strictly supervise their activities."

Their comments follow an initiative announced by Kyrgyz Minister of Justice Marat Kaipov last week to closely monitor the movements of foreign-financed NGOs through the National Security Service (NSS) which replaced the KGB, citing threats to national security, particularly Islamic terrorism.

In response, on Tuesday more than 100 NGOs sent a letter to President Bakiev to protest the justice ministry decision.

"We consider that the decision of Minister of Justice Marat Kaipov is above all aimed at the destruction of annoying NGOs," media reports quoted the signatories as saying.

Yet such assertions are not without merit. A report published on 20 January in the state-owned Slovo Kyrgyzstana, accused the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society of collaborating with America's National Democratic Institute (NDI), a non-profit organisation working to strengthen and expand democracy worldwide.

"Many representatives of the non-governmental sector are looking only to earn money. They [NGOs] forget about patriotism and do not want to establish a dialogue with official bodies. They are populists, criticising without seeing the country's efforts to improve the social, economic and political situation," the report asserted, accusing the coalition of lobbying the interests of Washington.

But Baisalov shrugged off the claim entirely. "We're used to this type of harassment," he said, insisting instead that they were working within the country's constitution and for the betterment of the Kyrgyz people.

Meanwhile, in response to the NGOs' letter, Kaipov appeared on national television on Wednesday night to say he had been misquoted and that their initiative was merely to confirm that NGOs were doing what they said they were doing.


 Theme(s) Democracy
Other recent KYRGYZSTAN reports:

Typhoid cases reported in south,  21/Feb/06

Landslide activity starts early in 2006,  20/Feb/06

More than 60 trafficked women detained,  15/Feb/06

Economic disparities driving inter-ethnic conflict,  15/Feb/06

Farming organic cotton gains popularity in the south,  14/Feb/06

Other recent Democracy & Governance reports:

ZIMBABWE: Mugabe delivers broadside to neighbours, 21/Feb/06

SYRIA: US funding offer for NGOs draws mixed reactions, 21/Feb/06

UGANDA: Official campaigns end two days before polls, 21/Feb/06

SOUTH AFRICA: Govt adopts more focused approach to help orphans, 21/Feb/06

ANGOLA: Ready to play larger security role in Africa, 21/Feb/06

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