A number of stories in the press this week have discussed democracy in Central Eurasia, two from Daily Telegraph reporter James Kilner, a former Reuters correspondent based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
In Tajikistan, there’s a worrying slide towards censorship and tightening media controls, first with the Dictator, a satirical film about an authoritarian ruler, being banned and four days ago, Tajik authorities blocking access to one of the country’s main independent news websites. Asia Plus was reportedly blocked due to reader comments which ‘insulted’ high ranking officials.
In contrast, in Kyrgyzstan, Kilner interviewed Roza Otunbayeva, a former Kyrgyz president who states that Kyrgyzstan is a beacon of democracy, illustrated by a two-week revolution in April 2010 which ousted Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the former ruler, and put Otunbayeva at the helm of the country. She stepped down without incident after democratic elections in December 2011. Otunbayeva claims that the Kyrgyz revolution was the inspiration of the Arab Spring. I recommend reading this article if you’re unfamiliar with Kyrgyzstan, good background, easy reading and accessible.
And in Mongolia, in our article not written by Kilner but rather by Jonathan Manthorpe of the Vancouver Sun, Manthorpe states Mongolia is on the move to towards democracy – depending on who you talk to. Manthorpe states that the coming elections, which have ruled out former President Nambaryn Enkhbayar from running in parliamentary elections on June 28 due to pending corruption charges, indicate a movement towards democracy and transparency in the Mongolian government. He then points out that many state that these restrictions are actually judicial persecution, and Enkhbayar has the support of many international figures, including Ban Ki Moon.