WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 562, January 19, 2009
KYRGYZSTAN: POLITICAL CONFRONTATION INTENSIFIES Anti-government coalition
accuses authorities of persecution and intimidation. By Anara Yusupova in
KYRGYZ TAX CHANGE TO HIT SMALLER BUSINESSES Officials say previous rules were
too lax and allowed private firms to evade taxes. By Asyl Osmonalieva in
TAJIKISTAN: BADAKHSHAN MEDIA IN DIRE STATE Residents say theyre forced to
rely on word of mouth to get the latest news. By Aslibegim Manzarshoeva and
Lola Olimova in Tajikistan
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KYRGYZSTAN: POLITICAL CONFRONTATION INTENSIFIES
Anti-government coalition accuses authorities of persecution and intimidation.
By Anara Yusupova in Bishkek
Tension is mounting between the Kyrgyz political opposition and the countrys
leadership following the creation of an alliance of moderate and radical
Opposition activists who have joined forces and presented a list of radical
demands, including the resignation of the president accuse the authorities of
putting pressure on its leaders and intimidating its supporters.
The United Peoples Movement, UPM, has also announced the creation of a
committee to support people persecuted for their political views.
The government, meanwhile, has been dismissive of the coalition, accusing its
members of breaking the law by calling for the head of states resignation.
The UPM, which was established in December, includes major parties like Ata
Meken, Ak Shumkar, Asaba and Jany Kyrgyzstan, as well as the Social Democrats
the only political group represented in parliament apart from the ruling Ak Jol.
Its founding document states that its aims include replacing current president
Kurmanbek Bakiev, setting up a coalition government, and adopting a new
constitution to replace the current presidential-style system with a
At its first meeting on January 12, the UPM said it intended to organise
nationwide protests calling for an improvement to the economic situation in the
country. It has also called for a halt to a planned privatisation programme
under which strategic assets in energy, gold production and telecommunications
industries are to be sold.
Previous attempts to form a broad coalition of anti-government groups
including one in November last year have foundered.
Observers note that the latest coalition includes not only hardliners such as
Azimbek Beknazarov, whose Peoples Revolutionary Movement pursues an agenda of
removing the head of state, but also more moderate groups such as Jany
The opposition groups joined forces last month, after the financial crisis in
Kyrgyzstan went from bad to worse.
The global financial crisis has hit migrant workers particularly hard, causing
Kyrgyz labourers remittances to be slashed by the equivalent to19 per cent of
the countrys gross domestic product.
Unemployment has soared, and following the onset of winter, the population has
increasingly felt the bite of ongoing electricity shortages.
The opposition politicians who have called for drastic measures to be taken
to stop living conditions deteriorating further say that their political
activities have prompted the authorities to stage a campaign of politically
On December 30, almost a week after the UPM was founded, a criminal case was
launched against the leader of Jany Kyrgyzstan former defence minister and
ex-secretary of the Security Council Ismail Iskakov.
The charges against him, which date back to his time as defence minister,
include accusations that he misused public funds, allowed illegal sales of
vehicles and spare parts by military personnel, and allowed his son to rent out
an apartment provided to him free during his tenure as minister.
At a press conference on January 15, Isakov rejected the accusations and said
the legal case against him was the result of a political order from the
This is an attempt to intimidate the opposition, he said.
On January 9, the prosecutor generals office opened a criminal case against
leading member of the Green Party Erkin Bulekbaev for allegedly insulting the
president. It was reported that police found satirical cartoons depicting
On January 14, the Bishkek prosecutors office sent a warning to Alikbek
Jekshenkulov, the coordinator of the Movement for Justice, about an article he
had published in the Uchur newspaper last November.
In this, he outlined various political aims, including changing the
constitution, forcing the president to resign, and warned of mass protests.
The prosecutors letter stated that the article could be interpreted as a call
for the overthrow of the government. It warned that if he continued to produce
such material, action would be taken against him, according to the AKI-Press
The following day, Ata-Meken party published a press release outlining
instances of pressure it said had been applied on its members prior to local
party meetings on January 17 and 18.
According to Ata Mekens statement, the prosecutors office in the northern
Talas region warned their members not to break the law.
The party also claimed that at the same time, the Pervomaysky district
prosecutors office in Bishkek summoned Ata-Meken activists for interviews
about forthcoming gatherings.
These are methods of political intimidation. The authorities are trying to put
pressure on leaders [of the opposition] themselves or through their relatives.
This means that they cant ignore our union, which is the only real opposition
force, said Ata-Meken leader Omurbek Tekebaev.
Tekebaev said that the authorities were driven by fear that the UPM enjoyed
wide public support.
According to him, the current climate in Kyrgyzstan was similar to that which
preceded the so-called Tulip Revolution of 2005, when popular protests ousted
the then president Askar Akaev and brought Bakiev to power.
Both then and now, you could see people mistrusted those in power, who lacked
moral authority. Both then and now, public opinion was completely controlled by
the authorities, and there was persecution of journalists and dissidents,
criminal persecution of political opponents, he said.
Temir Sariev from Ak Shumkar agreed that people had plenty of reasons to
Look how peoples living standards are falling, how people live in rural areas
when the power is cut for 18 hours a day, and there is no coal to use for
heating and large families are forced to be cramped into one room [to keep
warm], he said.
Jekshenkulov said that as the economic crisis continues, he was confident that
the oppositions views would strike a chord with the public.
I would like to say that the wider the crisis in the country becomes, the more
people will support us, he said.
However, officials have been dismissive of the new alliance.
The presidents press secretary Nurlan Shakiev told IWPR that the opposition
coalition was only temporary, and suggested that underlying divisions between
the various parties would prevent a long-term alliance.
At the moment, they are united by a common interest, but because of their
personal ambitions and inability to reach a consensus, they will very soon
disintegrate, he said.
Shakiev warned that unless the opposition reconsidered its more radical
demands, the authorities were unlikely to negotiate.
Other officials have said the oppositions demands are unconstitutional.
Their calls for the early resignation of the head of state are not only
illegal, but are also groundless and are against the people, State Secretary
Dosbol Nur-Uulu told journalists on December 25.
Anara Yusupova is the pseudonym for a journalist in Bishkek.
KYRGYZ TAX CHANGE TO HIT SMALLER BUSINESSES
Officials say previous rules were too lax and allowed private firms to evade
By Asyl Osmonalieva in Bishkek
Businesses in Kyrgyzstan are questioning new rules that require more of them to
fill out an exhaustive tax return, saying the move comes at a very bad time for
an economy that is already suffering the effects of the international financial
>From January 1, the government has reduced from 122 to 71 the list of
>categories of business allowed to buy a certificate as proof of payment of
>taxes. In addition, the fee for the certificate has been raised several times
>over. The increase will vary from twice the previous rate to sevenfold.
The changes are being introduced in line with a new tax code which parliament
passed in October.
The certificate or license, known as a patent, was introduced in 1996 as a
fast-track taxation system to make live easier for small and medium-sized
companies such as food shops, cafes, billiard halls and saunas.
The document was issued by the tax authorities as proof that the business
concerned had paid all its dues, with the exception of taxes on property, land
taxes and advertising and the refuse collection fee. Once they had undergone an
initial tax inspection, firms were freed from the obligation to maintain
detailed bookkeeping and file tax returns.
Erkin Sazykov of the tax committees press office said the decision was taken
to improve tax collection rates.
He said the licensing system had encouraged tax evasion, and predicted that it
would be scaled down further.
The voluntary approach to acquiring a license has allowed entrepreneurs to
avoid bookkeeping and submitting accounts, and to conceal a certain amount of
their profits, he said. This in turn led to a loss of state revenues.
Private firms say this is not the right time to be putting them under more
pressure, and warn that some will now opt to retreat into the black economy and
pay no taxes whatsoever.
In the current environment of global crisis, which affects us too, the leaders
of other countries are unlike ours trying to support businesses, said
Tursuntay Salimov, deputy head of the Union of Kyrgyz Entrepreneurs. By taking
such decisions, our government is making life more difficult for businessmen,
most of whom work just to feed their families.
Salimov said the extra workload of accounting, and the higher fees charged to
those still able to buy tax licences, might prove too much of a strain for some
businesses and drive them to the wall.
He said his association had received many phone calls from businessmen who were
prepared to work together to voice their concerns.
Right now, we are drafting a petition to Prime Minister Igor Chudinov asking
the government to reconsider its decision, he said. If it doesnt, the
pressure on small and medium businesses will result in an army of unemployed
and a deterioration in the general economic situation.
Nurlan Abdyshev, an economic analyst with the business magazine of AKIpress
news agency, agreed that the timing was poor. We have been in a difficult
economic situation since last November, and businesses are finding it harder
and harder to function.
He predicted, Businesses will go underground and the budget will not get the
revenue it anticipates.
Sazykov issued a stern warning that any company that tried operating outside
the tax system would be caught.
The financial police do a good job, and if they identify an entrepreneur who
is operating in the shadow economy, theyll impose massive fines, he said. I
believe businesses would rather operate legally than pay large sums in
penalties or bribes.
Some Kyrgyz parliamentarians have questioned the government decision. On
January 15, Alisher Sabirov of the governing Ak Jol party asked for an
explanation of how the increase in the license price had been calculated.
The owner of a small bakery in the capital Bishkek, who gave her name only as
Mansura, told IWPR of her fears that her business would no longer remain
Weve heard a lot of complaints from customers who want bread prices to go
down, given that the cost of flour has fallen. No one cares that electricity,
fuel and rent costs have increased and now the [tax] license is going to cost
us twice as much, she said.
Under such circumstances, we cant consider lowering the prices of our
products. It would be enough to maintain our current prices and still stay
Asyl Osmonalieva is an IWPR-trained journalist in Bishkek.
TAJIKISTAN: BADAKHSHAN MEDIA IN DIRE STATE
Residents say theyre forced to rely on word of mouth to get the latest news.
By Aslibegim Manzarshoeva and Lola Olimova in Tajikistan
In the remote Tajik region of Badakhshan, people dont turn to the radio,
television or internet to find out whats happening in other parts of the
province or beyond.
Instead, they go down to the bustling market in the regions capital, Khorog.
Just next to the market is a bus station, where a steady stream of travellers
arrives bringing news of the outside world.
You find out the latest news here, long before you get the national
newspapers, said 32-year old Davlatbek. The drivers will tell you quicker
than our media.
Badakhshan, a large region consisting of inhospitable high-altitude terrain in
south-eastern Tajikistan, is home to more than 200,000 people.
The mountains and harsh weather conditions make it hard to get there by road or
air. The sense of isolation is compounded by the poor state of the media, which
suffers from a shortage of professional journalists and weak infrastructure,
the result of years of under-investment and neglect.
While radio used to be the most effective way of bringing news to Badakhshan
residents, the regions broadcasting equipment has fallen into a state of
All the radio lines used for transmission are old or have been destroyed
during mudslides and rock falls. In some places, radio masts and cables have
simply been stolen, said local radio producer Amon Mardonov.
The state-run regional radio station switched to FM in 2007, but it rapidly
became apparent that many people could no longer hear it as they had the wrong
kind of radios and the rugged terrain limited the reach of broadcasts.
Journalists at the station still persevere in broadcasting, telling IWPR they
produced two hours of material each day.
The programmes are painstakingly put together on obsolescent equipment using
reel-to-reel tape, said staff at the station. They find it hard to source
supplies of tape as most broadcasters use now use digital editing software.
Television broadcasts are even more limited. The state TV station for
Badakhshan broadcasts just one hour-long programme each day, excluding Sundays,
and only to Khorog residents.
The TV stations roof collapsed last year,, and there is no money to repair it.
Nor can the station afford to buy more transmitters to broadcast more widely.
The print media are also in poor shape. There are nine newspapers in
Badakhshan, but they appear just a month, with the exception of Badakhshan,
the regional governments mouthpiece. That paper manages to have a 1,200
circulation only because public institutions are required to subscribe.
The newspapers mostly focus about official events and decisions by the local
The shortage of printing equipment means some are printed in the Tajik capital
Dushanbe rather than Khorog.
There is only one independent media organisation in the region
Pamir Media, which was up by a local non-government group with funding from the
United States-based Soros Foundation.
The agency, which has recently set up its own website, brings news of
developments in Badakhshan to the rest of the world. But few people inside the
region can use it because there is such restricted access to the web.
None of the regional media outlets has its own internet connection, and the
only places with access to the net are two cyber cafes in Khorog, where
customers have to queue for hours for their turn to go online.
The regional media also suffer from a shortage of professional staff.
Although a journalism faculty was opened at Khorog University three years ago,
it does not have enough teachers, said faculty dean Azatsho Nasredinshoev.
Meanwhile, the several dozen journalism graduates who leave the university each
year have no guarantee of work.
Those who find media jobs with local organisations can expect low ages.
The average pay for a journalist or editor is 10 to 15 US dollars a month,
appalling even by the low national average 60 dollars.
The poor pay levels lead many graduates to seek work with international
We now have many promising, talented young journalists but they go to work for
international organisations or other agencies where the pay is better, said
Iftihor Mirshakar, editor-in-chief of Pamir Medias news agency.
Local journalists say that Badakhshans media will not improve unless it gets
According to Mirshakar, the region is so underdeveloped that conventional
sources of income such as advertising are not available. There are no large
companies, and the smaller ones do not advertise.
Small companies are not interested in advertising. They think that they dont
need to waste money on it, as everyone knows them anyway, he said.
Media workers are calling on the Tajik government and international agencies to
provide funding to develop the sector.
Apart from the Soros Foundation support for Pamir Media, there are currently no
other media projects of this kind.
Pamir Medias head, Qurbon Alamshoev, said donor organisations neglect the
region because of a perception that the Aga Khan Foundation, AKF, is already
providing enough support there.
AKF, which came to Tajikistan in 1995, is part of the Aga Khan Development
Network, which supports projects in health, education, culture, rural and
The organisation was set up by the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the
worlds Ismaili Muslims. The people of Badakhshan are mainly Ismailis, whereas
Tajiks in the rest of the country are Sunni.
When local journalists turn to these [international] organisations, they
always point to the Aga Khan Foundation, but it does not have a specific
programme designed to support media development, said Alamshoev.
Mirshakar stressed the importance of investing in Badakhshans media.
He pointed out that the region, which borders on Afghanistan, China and
Kyrgyzstan, was a crucial gateway for the whole of Central Asia, not just
In the future, our region will host a road link connecting the whole of
Central Asia with India and Pakistan, said Mirshakar. It is not for nothing
that the president [Imomali Rahmonov] himself has dubbed Badakhshan the Golden
Gates of Tajikistan.
Aslibegim Manzarshoeva is an IWPR-trained contributor and Lola Olimova is an
IWPR editor in Tajikistan.
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