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 
Bishkek

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 
Bishkek

TAJIKISTAN: BADAKHSHAN MEDIA IN DIRE STATE  Residents say they’re 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 country’s 
leadership following the creation of an alliance of moderate and radical 
anti-government forces.

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 People’s 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 state’s 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 
parliamentary-based one. 

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 People’s Revolutionary Movement pursues an agenda of 
removing the head of state, but also more moderate groups such as Jany 
Kyrgyzstan.

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 country’s 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 
motivated persecutions.

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 
president. 

“This is an attempt to intimidate the opposition,” he said.

On January 9, the prosecutor general’s 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 
Bakiev.

On January 14, the Bishkek prosecutor’s 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 prosecutor’s 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 
news agency.

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 Meken’s statement, the prosecutor’s 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 
prosecutor’s 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 can’t 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 
protest.

“Look how people’s 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 opposition’s 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 president’s 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 opposition’s 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 
taxes.

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 
crisis.

>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 committee’s 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 doesn’t, 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, they’ll 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 
competitive. 

“We’ve 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 can’t consider lowering the prices of our 
products. It would be enough to maintain our current prices and still stay 
afloat.”

Asyl Osmonalieva is an IWPR-trained journalist in Bishkek.


TAJIKISTAN: BADAKHSHAN MEDIA IN DIRE STATE

Residents say they’re 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 don’t turn to the radio, 
television or internet to find out what’s happening in other parts of the 
province or beyond.

Instead, they go down to the bustling market in the region’s 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 region’s broadcasting equipment has fallen into a state of 
disrepair.

“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 station’s 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 government’s 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 
authorities. 

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 
organisations instead.

“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 Media’s news agency. 

Local journalists say that Badakhshan’s media will not improve unless it gets 
proper funding.

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 don’t 
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 Media’s 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 
economic development. 

The organisation was set up by the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the 
world’s 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 Badakhshan’s 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 
Tajikistan.

“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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