“Freedom and security in the Internet sphere"
Meeting of Experts
On May 20th, the Bishkek Press Club held a meeting with experts on the topic of "Freedom
and Security in the Internet sphere” within the project “Ensuring the safety of journalists."
This meeting was made possible by the support of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek.
Representatives of media NGOs, international organizations and the media at large took
part in the Roundtable.
Moderator: Alexander Kulinsky, member of the Board of Grievances in the media
List of participants:
Denis Arzamastsev, lawyer of the Foundation “Center for Media Support”;
Alexei Bebinov, IT-expert of the PF "GIPI";
Daniyar Karimov, correspondent of IA “24.kg”;
Nazgul Kurmanalieva, coordinator of PF "GIPI";
Tattu Mambetalieva, head of PF "GIPI";
Grigoriy Mikhailov, correspondent of IA "Regnum";
Mariya Rasner, head of the Internews Network Kyrgyzstan;
Elmira Turdubaeva, teacher of the Kyrgyz-Turkish University “Manas”;
Azamat Tynaev, journalist;
Begaim Usenova, director of the NGO "Institute for Media Policy";
Burul Usmanalieva, coordinator of the media projects of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek,
Edil Chekirov, correspondent of the Radio “Kabarlar”.
As well as participants from the project "Enhancing the capacity of journalists in covering
Alexander Kulinsky: My name is Alexander Kulinsky, we have met previously during
numerous trainings and seminars. Today we have a Roundtable, organized by the Bishkek
Press Club with the support of the OSCE Center in Bishkek within the project "Ensuring the
safety of journalists”.
Today we're going to talk about freedom and security in the Internet sphere, from the
point of view of the media. Since each of us is a source of information, you, as a younger
generation, probably use such things like blogs, twitter, facebook, «odnoklassniki”... It is
necessary to remember that when we use the Internet for individual needs, we still go out
into the information space, which is global. That is, what we are writing or saying on the
Internet becomes accessible to an enormous number of people, potentially for all who live
on this planet.
This should impose on us certain moral obligations, and it is especially important in light of
what is happening in our country. We must understand that every word can be a trigger
for a serious conflict within the country. You have all been watching the situation; you can
see what is happening in our country.
We must consider and understand what a big responsibility falls on all of us when we post
some information on the Internet or use information located on the Internet. Surely, today
it may be said that the Internet is a big trashcan, where one can find everything, and
everyone uses whatever he/she would like to consume.
You, as future journalists, we, as realized journalists and non-governmental organizations
should understand that the information posted on the Internet is an all too dangerous tool
that must be checked several times.
I want to introduce our current participants. Tattu Mambetalieva is not only a famous
person on the Internet of our country but she is also a very important person. She chairs
the public foundation “Civil Initiative of Internet Policy”. By and large, she has organized
the media community, and not only the media community, despite the many
encroachments on the freedom of the Internet. Thanks to her, we managed to defend the
freedom of the Internet.
Grigory Mikhaylov is a correspondent for the news agency “Regnum”, as well as an active
Internet user, who actively posts his information both as a journalist for the Russian news
agency "Regnum" and simply as a well-known journalist in our country.
Everyone will probably speak for five minutes, yes? And we'll start our discussion. Please,
Tattu Mambetalieva: As I understand, the organizers of today’s roundtable would like to
speak more about the system of operative-search activities. But before I talk about it, I
would like to clarify the introductory words of Alexander Kulinsky about information in the
When a person uses the Internet, he/she must clearly understand the source of the
information he/she is using. There is information on the websites of news agencies,
newspapers, and there is also a completely different category of information. That is, when
we talk about whether or not to trust the information on the Internet, it is necessary to
clearly understand the source of information we are using. The user should decide whether
to trust the information or not. Therefore, we cannot unequivocally say that we cannot
trust all sources of information on the Internet, otherwise why do we need the Internet?
Now, a bit of history on the topic. Since 2006, when there was an initiative to amend the
law on communications and high-tech communication, this issue has been raised
repeatedly. In 2008, an amendment was passed dictating that each telecom operator
(including those offering Internet) in order to get a license, must consent to installing
equipment which allows for the filtering, viewing and wiretapping of information. Since the
law is not retroactive, the amendment was to work against those operators who upgraded
their license or got a new one. Thus, only two or three operators fell under this category.
The online community and network operators were very unhappy with this norm - for two
reasons. The first reason is a question of funding: because the maintenance and servicing
of such equipment as well as the storage of the data are quite expensive. In most
countries, these costs are paid by the State itself. In our case, these costs were assigned
to communication operators. The operators said: “Ok, in this case, all these costs will be
paid by subscribers.” It turns out, the subscriber, in addition to paying for the network,
had to pay for being tapped.
The second reason for the operators’ dissatisfaction is the issue of human rights. Is it legal
to use this equipment? To what extent is it permissible?
There are international standards. For example, in European countries such data are kept
for three years, and their format allows the authorities concerned to view only who wrote
whom, but not the content of these letters, or messages. That is, they respect the right to
protect the privacy of correspondence.
In our country, those rules were not clear and, we raised the issue when speaking to the
State Committee of National Security (SCNS). Sutalinov, who was then the Minister of
National security, promised to develop appropriate regulations and submit them for
general discussion. He kept his word, and in 2009 there was a draft law, which passed its
first reading in April 2010. We actively resisted this draft law because it violated human
rights and the right of access to information. The problem was that this law did not solve
the questions posed by the operators. That law assumes that any law enforcement body
can give the sanction, so that any investigator could authorize and obtain access to the
correspondence of any person who is within the territory of Kyrgyzstan. These norms had
not been corrected and were adopted at first reading.
After the recent events, we can safely express our grievances. Since late 2008, such
equipment has been installed amongst all the operators. And the SCNS now has fiber-optic
lines. As we understand, technically it works this way: the traffic that passes through the
operator, both sent and received, is fully copied and delivered to the SCNS. What they do
with this data, how they process them, and how this system works remains a mystery to
Naturally, network operators began to resist, but the law enforcement bodies used
physical, moral and financial pressure against the operators. The operators are now
obligated to update their equipment. The National Agency for Communications asked the
question: who certified this, who has licensed this program? There is no guarantee that
this program would not falter, and that a criminal correspondence would not be assigned
to an absolutely innocent subscriber. These questions, too, were ignored.
After the events of April 7, because we felt that it was an initiative of the former regime,
operators switched off the wiretapping equipment. Half an hour later the SCNS phoned all
operators and made them switch all that equipment on. That is, this equipment is actively
used, and you all remember well, how they disclosed telephone conversations of certain
political leaders. Whether it is legal or not - it is a different matter. In fact, it turns out that
we all are wiretapped.
In fact, the use of such equipment is not against the law. This is a normal system, which
includes fighting terrorism, investigating crimes and so on. The question is how to use it
properly, the legality of its use. And, of course, limits and boundaries are important; the
right of any user to privacy is important, too.
In all civilized countries, there exists special legislation regarding this. Everyone knows
under what circumstances they can be wiretapped, how these data are stored, in what
format and so on. Many countries decided to use such methods after the events of
September 11, and it is no secret to anyone.
In our country, the use of this equipment may be somewhat justified, but the problem is
that every citizen of Kyrgyzstan has a right to know when it is used.
I am ready to answer your questions.
Alexander Kulinsky: Thank you, now Grigoriy Mikhailov will speak.
Grigoriy Mikhailov: Hello. I would like to talk specifically about the system of
operational-investigative activities (SOIA). SOIA is in fact a complex of measures,
technical and not only technical, which allow intelligence agencies to track the flow of
information, going through the telephone network via the Internet, virtually controlling all
communication channels, except the telegraph. This project was tested in Russia, and it
seems, is successfully implemented in Kazakhstan, USA, some European countries, and
now it is being implemented here. Historical references indicate that, in Russia in 1913, in
the premises of the State Duma (Russian Parliament) wiretapping equipment was
installed: so it is an ancient tradition.
Recent developments, when the content of phone calls of various political figures was
made public, indicate that wiretapping will be used increasingly in political struggles.
I would like to explain to you, how safe or dangerous various channels of communication
are. Well... The most insecure communication channel is mobile phones. For several
reasons. First, security departments at cellular companies are most often headed by
former security services officers, and as we know, there are no “former” security officers,
and actually no official document is needed to wiretap somebody.
By the way, the wiretapping of Usen Sydykov’s calls, and those of other politicians, was
made by request from official bodies, i.e. there are official documents, which authorized
the wiretap. But, in some cases, such measures are taken without any official documents.
With mobile phones, it is easy to know the content of voice calls, sms, passwords that you
submit, or if you use the Internet through your mobile phone - all this can be easily
tapped. How to protect oneself from being tapped I’ll explain later.
Each of us has a mobile phone in a pocket or in a bag. First, any mobile phone, being
specially adjusted, can be adjusted so that it receives a signal, even if it is switched off.
For example, your phone lies on your desk and sends a signal during your negotiations
with anyone. Technically this is possible and is widely used.
In addition, your mobile phones make it easy to determine your location. Using certain
techniques, it is possible to determine where you are today, and with which owners of
which phone numbers you’ve met in person. If the phones with certain numbers were at
the distance of one meter from you and for quite a long time, it means that you
communicated with the owners of those phone numbers in some way or another, even
during your trip in a minibus. Accordingly, these phones, too, if necessary, may be
wiretapped and so on.
Changing a SIM-card is not a way out. In addition to SIM-cards, professional phone
detection is possible through the code that is individually assigned to each cell unit. If you
want to talk safely with somebody, as some people are trying to do now, buy a brand new
phone and a brand new SIM-card, and your partner should do the same, and then you can
talk. This may partly save you from eavesdroppers, for some time.
Now let’s talk about the Internet. Today we are talking about the Internet, how we can
transmit information over the Internet. First: we can exchange text messages - e-mail,
ICQ and other protocols, we can use Internet telephone services, such as Skype. E-mail is
easily opened, and the Russian “mail.ru” is the most vulnerable in this regard.
Theoretically, a more secure mail is “Google”, because it uses a slightly different protocol,
but it can be disclosed, as well.
There are several ways you to protect oneself from information disclosure. The most
common and recommended one is a cipher: cryptography. There are many programs that
allow you, to varying degrees of reliability, encrypt your messages, sending them to the
addressee, who, having the key given by you, can decode your messages. Please, note
that encrypted messages automatically attract the attention of security services to you.
There are many different programs, which should be treated carefully, because some of
them have specially embedded "holes", so that intelligence services can easily reveal your
Skype. It is generally believed that Skype is a protected program, due to the fact that it is
an electronic data system. At the same time, Skype is a quite vulnerable system for
several reasons. Just like in all the other cases, Skype transfers digital data, and these can
be intercepted. Yes, Skype transmits data in encrypted form, but there are certain
techniques. I can say more about how interested individuals listen to your conversations,
know your passwords or replace your interlocutor. If you do not know the voice of your
interlocutor, if you know him/her but only by nickname, then probably you will talk not to
Vasily Vasilyevich or someone else, but to an officer of SCNS. Skype is not reliable.
Now about how we can protect ourselves, at least partly. The widespread method of using
the Internet not at home but in an Internet cafe does not protect you. Why? As you can
see, the administrators of Internet cafes have installed special equipment that allows them
to see everything that you currently see on your screen.
Secondly, Internet cafes are being equipped with surveillance cameras, and it is easy for
intelligence services to come to an Internet café, watch the video made by a surveillance
camera and know your face. Internet cafes do not guarantee complete safety.
The so-called cryptophones may protect you during negotiations. For example, smart-
phones, which offer additional software, which encrypts your speech and delivers it to your
companion. There are a few problems here. First, cryptophones are very expensive. Their
cost is about two thousand dollars for each one. Second, they require additional
certification. For example, in Russia their use is prohibited. As you know, models,
introduced through Russian operators, may have some sort of vulnerability. But we cannot
verify this, because we do not have certain technical skills.
Regarding the transfer of data. In the Internet telephony, there is special software that
allows for the encryption of your speech, for example, PTP-phone, a software product that
your personal laptop into a secure device for negotiations. In reality, the data is already
encrypted, and there is a serious code, which is difficult to break and so on. You can
download it at yandex or google, just enter the word “pjp phone”, and you will receive
Next: you need to send a large text. For example, you have written an article that
may cause some problems. You may send the article not as a text, but as images; thus, it
looks as if you send a photo, but, actually, there is a text inside the photo. This kind of
data transferring is difficult to trace and reveal.
The entirety of Internet traffic which passes through Kyrgyzstan is impossible to read,
even if there are 200 people in SCNS who read your correspondences. This is physically
impossible. They watch and wiretap specific people. If you do not belong to the category of
VIP-persons and persons related to them then you probably do not need to worry.
First and foremost, we should understand that one can fear wiretapping when his/her
interests are in contradiction with those of the security services. If not, it is unlikely that
something bad will happen. Employees of security services are serious people, and they
wouldn’t waste their time and resources.
By the way, as far as I know, Kyrgyz security services are now intensifying their efforts to
intercept messages. Questions?
Alexander Kulinsky: Thank you, Grigoriy. I was asked to speak about the ethical
component of the Internet use and communication in general.
It should be understood that the Internet is a method of transmitting information, and its
use requires some caution. This is, of course, verification of information.
You all remember that journalists should obey the law of three "no", which we have
already discussed: do not judge, do no harm and do not trust (verify the information). This
law should work for Internet journalism, too.
The Internet is increasing its capacity in the information sphere, and, as you see, the
events of 6-8 April have shown that the Internet played a more important role than
traditional media, because our traditional media was virtually paralyzed during those
days. The Internet, despite the fact that it was actually blocked in Kyrgyzstan, still played
the leading role in the transfer of information.
We have had serious approaches to information delivery. First, thanks to our well-known
journalist Elena Skochilo, who in 2005 was first in our history to use the Internet as a
method of transmitting information on what was happening in Kyrgyzstan to the outside
world. Certainly, the information she gave did not always correspond to reality. And this
time, too. But Elena has always stressed that it is an opportunity to give, at least, some
This year, the flow of information which Elena passed on through her blog on the
livejournal site was quite significant. I would even say it was huge, because she was not
within the borders of Kyrgyzstan and was able to monitor the situation here and post it
online, so that those who lived outside and within Kyrgyzstan had an opportunity to access
the Internet. She also was engaged in refuting that information which was often
inconsistent with the reality in our country.
As you recall, this time, Kyrgyzstan has found itself in confrontation with the Russian
media, which, unfortunately, very often exaggerates what is happening, to make the
situation more dramatic, compared with what the reality is. In this regard, the job done by
Elena Skochilo was essential for those Internet users who live outside Kyrgyzstan.
In addition, in the early days, Twitter was actually a “megaphone” of the Provisional
Government, which published all its decisions and resolutions on Twitter. This is also an
important component of the Internet.
Unfortunately, the Internet, as I said, is a big trashcan, many people dub it as such.
Indeed, there is much rubbish there.
Tattu and her organization opened a website inkg.info, which contains a section called
"refutation of rumors”. In our historical situation it is undeniably important.
To our great regret, the Internet in Jalal-Abad region is not as well developed, as it is in
Bishkek. Perhaps, information could have spread faster than rumors. Unfortunately, today
in Jalal-Abad region, there is still a difficult situation, because people got the wrong
Unfortunately, today's media market is no better; it’s not objective. It has not become
more balanced and professional either. People, who were yesterday engaged in
propaganda in support of Bakiyev, are now engaged in propaganda in support of the new
leaders, using the same words from our socialist past. Unfortunately, young journalists
who did not grow up in the times of the Soviet Union actively use these words. These
same words are quite actively
used on the Internet.
We are all in a historic situation today. It is largely unique to our society. We receive
invaluable historical experience, which others may never get. But it does not make our
situation better. We live here and now, and we all must understand today that the
situation is so acute that the actions of one particular person may cause enormous number
of problems for all. We all must understand it well. Do we want to live in a country with
civil war? Do we want to live in a country with ethnic strife? Kyrgyzstan knows it very well
from the experience of 1990. Do we want to live in a country with chaos? Do we want to
live in a country where it is impossible to live?
I think we all want to live in a country where it is not only possible to earn a living, but
also to see some prospects for the future. Today, this is the most painful problem: is there
a prospect for our State? We all need to make some small steps - heroism is not required
of anyone - that will help our country move on. And one of these steps is simple human
ethics in communicating with each other, in communicating through the media, including
I am always very skeptical about forums, discussions ... I was always shocked that people
who used the Internet, often wrote unacceptable things. And I’d like to note: Internet
users are mostly office staff, people who constantly have access to the Internet, who, in
general, are a kind of elite that will eventually become the economic, political and cultural
elite- future managers. After all, it is not the poor people, who are forced to work in the
market, push wheelbarrows, or those who live on the outskirts of Bishkek, who write
blogs, create forums, etc. Reading the messages and comments, I am amazed at how
imagine themselves as heroes, sitting on warm office chairs. People, having permanent
access to the Internet, are protected by anonymity, and they talk about some kind of
heroism, write bad things about others…
Unfortunately, there are few honest people, who would sincerely and openly express their
true thoughts. I would like you, as the younger generation, including journalists, you as
the future elite, no matter whether political, economic or cultural, to understood well that
the Internet is a way to transfer information. We must use it as civilized people, based on
principles enshrined even in religion and philosophy. We must remember that evil begets
evil, every bad action generates resistance, any insult, made by you, gives the right to
So, let's observe not only professional but also simple human ethics.
Many of you are now sitting and smiling: you think comrade Kulinsky supports some
propaganda, huh? But let's think thoughtfully, maybe, it’s time for us to make small
human actions and steps that will help the country avoid falling into an abyss.
Tattu Mambetalieva: This is a very big myth - Internet user believe themselves to be
This is a myth; we must inform you that nobody is anonymous on the Internet. It’s always
possible to find any user.
But at the same time I would like to speak on ethical issues from a different point of view.
Let's talk about freedom. The Internet is a kind of freedom, and I think that we must
preserve this freedom. The point is how you behave in this free space. I often tell an
anecdote about warrant officers and privates. A warrant officer asks: "Are you ready,
private Ivanov, for the sake of the Homeland, to stop drinking alcohol, smoking, swearing
and wenching? "And the private replied: "Why do I need such life?" The same with
Internet users - users do what they want on the Internet.
Another thing is how we should read, understand and filter this information. Statistics
show that, unfortunately, office workers do not constitute the majority of Internet users,
ordinary users. Now there are about a million users. And we get a great number of users
due to the fact that mobile Internet has begun to develop, it came in handy, precisely
because it was presented six months before these events, and we got 300-400 thousand
new unique users that use mobile Internet. Twitter has become popular due to the fact
that the mobile Internet has developed very quickly.
Our primary task now is to remove the information vacuum, as the lack of information is
insecurity, it is a threat to security. We need to think about how to ensure security, using
the Internet. It seems that in our situation, it is a unique opportunity which we can use to
provide information and widen the Internet. A man from Jalal-Abad said yesterday: neither
radio, nor television function. We are in a vacuum and it is scary. If they had mobile
phones and could read the Internet, they could disseminate information themselves. I am
saying this for those who are pessimistic about the Internet. The Internet is just the thing
with which we can ensure safety.
Now, as for security issues in the Internet environment, namely the security of each
user. There are many aspects. They include privacy protection, correspondence protection,
copyright protection, protection from viruses, spam and so on. These things need to be
clearly distinguished. Security is not something terrible and great, this is our usual
offline security, which we are simply moving into online mode. And we demand that those
who deal with regulation ensure our security in the offline mode, and at the same time we
ask users not to infringe upon the safety of others, who are also online.
Now about the safety of journalists. This problem is very topical now. Journalists suffer
most in all of these events. It seems to me that it’s high time to think about the protection
of journalists themselves. One of the factors affecting our safety is receiving and
distributing information. And who is engaged in this? Mostly journalists. It is now
take more actions to protect them (the media, journalists) because we feel that they
deserve our security, our safety. If we ensure the safety of journalists, we ensure our own
I think this issue is very important today, because the Internet could serve as an
additional tool for disseminating the results of their activities. We are talking about
incompetence, but, unfortunately, the quality of journalistic work is not suffering from the
fact that journalists are bad, but because the system is bad. Journalists have always been
persecuted, they are always under pressure. In order to get new personnel we need time
and patience. Thank you.
Alexander Kulinsky: Do you have questions? Please.
Alia Alzhanova: Hello, my name is Alia. Alexander Kulinsky in his lectures told us that
there were turning points when the media had to unite to defend the freedom of speech.
Now we face exactly the same situation. Judging by the fact that the SOIA program was
not terminated in the current regime, do you not think that the freedom of speech will be
Tattu Mambetalieva: I think that SOIA and freedom of speech are different things in this
case. Media organizations have been trying to create a trade union for many years. But
the problem is that we need a body, which can not only unite them, but can also provide a
protection system for journalists, including legal and moral issues, so that journalists can
have a body, or an agency, where they could turn to if needed. Unfortunately, such an
institution could not be established, because journalism is a specific sphere, and journalists
are always in competition with each other. In general, everything is complicated in the
I am not a journalist myself, but I can very well understand the journalism
profession. SOIA has nothing to do with it. SOIA can affect freedom, the ability to spread
obtain information, that this information can be intercepted or not delivered, or may reveal
the source of information, and so on.
As for the infringement on freedom of speech today ... you know we must always try to
be optimistic. Before April 7th I spoke about these things very carefully, it would be
dangerous for me. Now I speak more openly, though I understand responsibility. Today it’s
the right moment for us to set our rights and talk about our capabilities. This is a unique
opportunity when we can influence something and build something. Now it’s time for
journalists to unite and show themselves as a real fourth power, to speak about their own
problems. You must unite and defend yourselves, I can only support this. I think that this
trade union can be established on the basis of some existing media organizations, they
exist, and they are many.
Grigoriy Mikhailov: I would add that SOIA is just a tool that can be used for good things
and for bad things. There are numerous variations on pressure is placed on journalists to
restrict freedom of speech: the SOIA is one of them. Personally, I absolutely do not believe
that the SOIA will be turned off, this won’t happen, especially now.
SOIA will not be canceled now due to the fact that, in the current situation, intelligence
services need this tool to control information and it is very important. Intelligence services
will never abandon such an instrument.
Alia Alzhanova: This system should work, and nobody should cancel it, but are there any
methods of regulation of this system?
Tatu Mambetalieva: The system worked and will work in Kyrgyzstan. I am against it,
because I do not believe that it will be used for its intended purpose. There are civilized
countries where all the laws and regulations work properly, and there such system can be
When SOIA was developed, it was aimed at terrorists, extremists and so on. In our
country, it is used to control everyone. I do not know of any example in the CIS countries,
when SOIA was used effectively to find a terrorist or a murderer. There have been no
cases when the system helped do it quickly. There is a case in Russia, when SOIA helped
catch a swindler who worked in the banking system. But there have not been any
examples of catching a terrorist with the help of SOIA. Perhaps, terrorists and extremists
use communication technologies among themselves, which are difficult to reveal.
I am against this system in our country and I will be against it as long as our laws work
poorly and human rights are violated.
Grigoriy Mikhailov: Everything has already been done, all the equipment has been
already installed, and the money has been already spent. They would not ask our opinion,
and we should understand that well.
Next. Special services are unlikely to report to us about their work on the prevention and
control of terrorism, extremism, and so on. I can say that many elements of this system
are effectively used to control or prevent nationalism, for example, in forums. Often people
come to users, who post provocative information in forums. This really happens here and
in Russia. We must be aware of that.
This system is only gaining strength. You will not hear full reports from intelligence
services about how they have detained terrorists.
Tattu Mambetalieva: I do not like your pessimistic tone. I’m sorry but we have to fight
to create movements that legalize the procedures and rules for the proper use of the
system. We should not accept everything that happens to us.
I believe that as a result of our roundtable, we must, on the contrary, say: guys, we
demand the protection of our rights, privacy and personal data. After all, there is a law on
personal data and there is a constitutional norm. These are absolutely inalienable human
rights, and these rights must be implemented and ensured by the state. If we accept
everything that is done to us, it is an absolutely wrong position to take.
Alexander Kulinsky: Who has more questions, comments? Yes, Burul, please.
Burul Usmanalieva: I really liked your speeches. It is very good that we can now talk
freely about it.
We talked about the SOIA and freedom of speech on the Internet. Actually, SOIA does not
deal with the media; it is more interested in individuals, especially state officials, which is
inevitable. There are objective reasons, for example, to detain terrorists. I agree with
Tattu that there should be some legal framework – defining what intelligence services can
intercept and what they cannot.
I would like to say more about media freedom. The Internet is becoming an effective way
to deliver information, and now a big problem in terms of media freedom is the
information vacuum in the regions. The information coming from Jalalabad is so
controversial, that one does not know whom to believe. It’s hard to believe even
journalists, people from civil society, while in Bishkek, during the April events people could
find information on what was going on in the city. We need to develop two things in Talas,
Jalal-Abad. First, the activity of citizens themselves: people should share information, not
only journalists should do this. Secondly is a technical problem - not everyone has Internet
access. These two things are now problems.
Alexander Kulinsky: In theory, by and large, Kyrgyzstan is not an independent
information space. Kyrgyzstan is an integral part of the information space of Russia,
because the Russian media, in particular, TV channels are dominant in this market, that is,
across the country. They are watched throughout the country, they are read throughout
the country. Even in Naryn, people are willing to pay 45 som for the newspaper
"Arguments and Facts" or 25-26 som for the newspaper "Komsomolskaya pravda in
Kyrgyzstan", because they are much more interesting for them than Kyrgyz
newspapers. Often, people will buy a newspaper for the entire village.
Kyrgyzstan has never been engaged in the development of its own information
space. Actually, the country is under the influence of the information space of Kazakhstan,
and partly of Uzbekistan, and there is no interaction between different parts of Kyrgyzstan.
That is the problem.
We're fighting for public television, we pay a lot of attention to the freedom of speech or
something else, but we always tend to forget: what does an ordinary consumer want?
What kind of information? I am not saying that we should descend to the lowest level, but
we should always bear in mind what an ordinary consumer would like to see or hear, after
all, he pays money for it. Why are some channels popular, and why are the other
channels, full of intelligent programs, for example, the TV channel "Culture”, not
will the Russian First Channel always be on the first place? Because it is designed for
55 years old housewives, they are its target audience. It is more popular, almost everyone
watches it, because it focuses on all categories of people. This is the first point.
Second, the new power that will win in the parliamentary elections … To be frank, I doubt
that it will aim at freedom of speech because it simply cannot work with this freedom of
speech. Freedom of speech is a very global concept, whose essence is not only in what a
journalist can write or someone can read. It's like a clock: it shows only the time, but
correct time requires the proper functioning of the inside of the clock: the work of a huge
number of gears. So, freedom of speech is exactly the same mechanism, it is very
complex, there is also a great number of gears inside. When they work together efficiently,
we see the “correct time". Today, we are trying to show “correct time” without a real
understanding how to do this.
Tattu mentioned trade unions. Our media “clock” is not working properly today. But if a
trade union appears, the mechanism will work better. If journalists are protected, if cases
of attacks against the members of the media are properly investigated, and people are
punished for attacking media workers, this mechanism will work much better, because
both journalists and the society will understand that people who journalists are
punished. Since 2005 we have had a situation where anyone can attack journalists without
being punished. The state, the Ministry of Internal Affairs have not properly investigated
any instances of attacks against journalists. Society understands this very well: if no one
investigates such cases, why not attack? This is also a problem, and it is all included in one
mechanism which forms the same information space.
It’s hard to develop good television in Naryn where there is no market. If Naryn were
Monaco, Monte Carlo, media would work there. And today, why do none of the local TV
stations wants to broadcast there? Because, it is expensive. And today the media must
survive, they must earn money.
Why do we cover only three main regions - Bishkek and Chui region, north Issyk-Kul, and
Osh (the Osh region is only partly covered)? Because those regions are the main
advertising markets where it’s possible to earn money. Many countries face this problem,
and many countries
solved it either through tax compensation for the media to deliver their products there, i.e.
they get some discounts, or through prolonging or giving new licenses for the frequencies,
thus making radio stations broadcast in new regions, charging a lower fee for that (our
National Communication Agency is practicing it now). Talas, Naryn and Batken regions are
the most problematic. Please, take these frequencies but broadcast in the Talas region; we
extend your license, but you should broadcast in the Naryn region. This is one of the
potential progressive mechanisms.
It is necessary to create a single information field; it is called information security. It is
much discussed but nobody has ever actually been engaged in it. And secondly, it is
necessary to create mechanisms that shape freedom of speech as such. These
mechanisms include the trade union, although very few believe in its success. They also
include criminal responsibility for attacking journalists and generally for obstructing the
professional activities of journalists. After all, we often believe that the problem is that
journalists are attacked. But we do not know the huge number of other ways that impact
journalists, after which they also stop writing. Murder is an extreme way. Many journalists
were just persuaded, and Tattu knew how they talked to some operators – they simply
Tattu Mambetalieva: I do not like when people get intimidated. We must have an
optimistic view on everything. I think we are all young and intelligent - we can overcome
The problem of regional journalism has always existed. I do not agree with the fact that
nothing has been done. A lot of things have been done, but without great success. We
must think about how to develop regional journalism. Maybe, we should try various
mechanisms once again. In the past information played one role, now it plays another
role. Technologies change very quickly.
Now, regarding the use of frequency resources. We oblige the operators who obtain
licenses to broadcast in new regions. The state must start doing something as well.
I'm for the idea, saying that regional news should be in the Kyrgyz language, there should
also be sub-regional news. We should not attempt to unite everything, because each
region is interested in its own news and problems. The populace in the regions has only
now begun to read the information published by news agencies, not because those news
agencies are bad but because they basically cover only Bishkek news. So now AKIPRESS
started publishing news in Kyrgyz as well.
There is a trend and an evolution, and we should not lose hope. We must all keep on
Burul Usmanalieva: Currently, there are dramatic events in Jalalabad. We didn’t know
whom to believe, there were different streams of information. When we have emergency
situations, revolutions, BBC correspondents arrive here from London, journalists from Al-
Jazeera, Channel One of Russia also come here, but no one sends journalists from NTRC to
Jalalabad or Talas. Perhaps, this is a financial problem, because Kyrgyz Television and
Radio Channel, Channel 5 or news agencies cannot afford sending their own journalists to
the places where events happen. They have to rely on journalist from “Azattyk”.
Now the OSCE is considering financing journalists’ trips to Jalal-Abad, if they are willing to
carefully and promptly provide information. This will also contribute to the stabilization of
the situation, because misinformation shapes our opinion. Kyrgyz citizens themselves,
who work in the center, should send their journalists to the region.
Alexander Kulinsky: We are a bit off the point, but anyway. Why can’t we get
information from the rural regions? If tomorrow something happens in Naryn, we will have
no information, just like today in Jalal-Abad.
You remember when they started reforms of the Kyrgyz Tele- and Radio company during
the rule of Melis Eshimkanov. They sent our best journalists to the regions, but we must
say sincerely that for those journalists it was a forced trip, because nothing really
happened in the regions.
Grigoriy Mikhailov: The situation has not exploded yet.
Alexander Kulinsky: No one will go there, until the situation explodes in the regions. And
today nobody will go, because it is dangerous. There are very few journalists who wish to
Burul Usmanalieva: And it’s hard to find neutral journalists – who do not support either
the South, or the North.
Alexander Kulinsky: This is a first point. Secondly – even if a journalist goes there, what
can he find out in such circumstances? Can he really be objective?
Grigoriy Mikhailov: The same is true for those journalists, who arrive in Bishkek from
abroad. Are they really objective when covering the revolution? There are too many
Alexander Kulinsky: You are absolutely right. But let us still go back to the problems of
Alia Alzhanova: I see that the news are broadcasted and delivered not only in the
mainstream, but also in regional ones. And the regional news is broadcast not only in the
regions, but also in the capital.
The media should have their regional journalists, who should work according to the latest
technologies, and they should understand that they are not working for Jalal-Abad, but for
the whole country.
Grigoriy Mikhailov: Dear participants, let's go back to the topic of the Internet. Please
note, we are now witnessing information warfare, which includes the Internet.
I recommend paying attention to the group of people who intentionally post various
misinformation on the Internet, i.e. they are specific PR services of various organizations
and political entities that present the information in the way which is advantageous for
them only. It's easy to see. If you track the topic, you can determine PR agents. There is a
dispute on whether or not the records with Usen Sydykov’s voice are real or not. The same
is true with Azimbek Beknazarov’s voice, which was ostensibly heard on another
record. There are websites, which have become the scene of battles between specialized
groups, trying to make a definite impression on you. It means that they are not just a
group of ordinary users. Please, treat this information carefully. There have been many
attempts to misinform people.
I recommend that the youth read books on public relations, on propaganda, so that you
know how it works. If you know how it works, you'll better understand what’s going on
In addition, destructive forces began to use another tool. For example, in Jalal-Abad some
people claimed to be members of some fictional organizations and misinformed the
population. Journalists spread this false information and started a chain reaction. We must
pay particular attention to all sources of information, including even some press-services,
since email addresses still belong to press officers who do not work in those agencies any
longer, due to the change of power in the country. Today press-services of some
governmental agencies send information, which should be read, but should not be taken
as absolute truth.
Jamila Karymbaeva: Let's say I want to connect to the Internet at my home place and
create my own blog - how can I protect myself?
Alexander Kulinsky: This is a question for Tattu, because she is an expert on these
Grigoriy Mikhailov: Are you afraid that the security services will know the name of the
Jamila Karymbaeva: Yes, if I, for example, post the information, which is a bit
controversial, and somebody does not like it.
Grigoriy Mikhailov: If special services really want to find you, they will find you. That's
for sure. But I doubt that someone here wants to be seriously engaged in subversive work
and quarrel with the state. You can express your dissatisfaction. But do not publish any
hint of personal information, do not tell them where you were yesterday evening, about
your friends, any kind of information concerning your private life, your habits, your
things like that.
Often, it is easy to find a blog owner by a combination of some moments, which can be
found on his blog. Sometimes it is possible to trace someone using a number of factors:
for example, what time he/she posts his information, when he/she is offline, what topics
he/she writes about, what activities he/she is interested in. Accordingly, you should be
extremely careful, when posting any information, if you do not want to be found out. Use a
nickname, which has never been used in any systems or social networks. Your password
should be new as well, because it’s easy to trace someone not only by a nickname, but
also by a password. It is difficult, but possible.
Alexander Kulinsky: Small clarification. Tattu’s organization often holds trainings on the
safe use of the Internet. According to Grigoriy, it is almost espionage work.
One should always ask himself a question: why are you doing this? If you have a blog
where you talk about your personal experiences, secret services will not be interested in
you, nobody will break your codes and passwords, nobody will wiretap your telephone,
because you are not interesting for such agencies.
But if you consciously decide to devote your life to the struggle, it is always necessary to
remember the experience of predecessors. If you remember the revolution in 1917,
leaders of the revolution had to spend almost half of their lives in jail and exile, and the
other half in tents, border crossings, and so on.
Grigoriy Mikhailov: Not always half of their lives. For some of them, life ended in jail.
Alexander Kulinsky: Yes. The question is what you choose for yourself? If you choose a
struggle, it is necessary to use all methods. I will remind you that Tattu’s organization is
called - Public Foundation “Civil Initiative of Internet Policy”. This foundation conducts
trainings which teach you how to use the Internet safely. Although it cannot be absolutely
As an authority on this topic, I can name Oleg Panfilov, who headed the Russian Center for
Journalism in Extreme Situations. His blogs have been repeatedly attacked and destroyed;
he can say a lot on this subject, and he is quite open for correspondence. You can find the
site of his organization on the Internet, there is a lot of literature about the safe use of the
This is certainly a very complicated system, which requires not only technical skills, but
also some kind of heroism. Again I would like to stress, everything depends on your
choice. Please, Azamat.
Azamat Tynaev: I'd like to share my thoughts on the fact that, in terms of a widespread
devaluation and loss of general confidence in information, the Internet is in a vague
situation. I personally think that forums are a deadend branch of the Internet’s
development. In this regard, we talk a lot about blogs and online diaries, because they are
by definition not anonymous. You are free to create them, you are free to write whatever
you want there, but you should remember that the things written by you will remain there
forever. Even if you erase everything, it does not help – things are automatically stored
and sorted out.
The Information Minister of Germany recently made an interesting report. In her report
she used the results of an extensive study which directly accused large Internet
companies, such as “google”, of publishing private information, i.e. the kind we post in all
the social networks, without any exceptions. They collect huge dossiers on people,
companies, organizations and associations, and those dossiers are successfully sold. That
is, they can sell this information to special services or to your potential employers.
Of course, it’s too early to say that such practices exist here, but seeing how quickly
develops, it’s quite possible in the near future.
If you consider yourself a journalist, but your views do not allow you to work in various
editions, you can easily gain a large number of visitors by creating a blog. I can give you
an example of a real person, she is a former media worker, a very attractive girl; the
number of visitors of her private blog now exceeds the number of visitors of many national
sites, information and news sites. What is she talking about? Talking about the freedom
and safety on the Internet, we understand where it comes from. The internet is used by
dishonest people to achieve their malicious purposes. There is a criterion by which I try to
understand whether a person is serious or not. A simple provocative question: what do
you think about Internet-forums? If I hear: I do not visit and do not read them - it’s the
best recommendation for me.
Sasha Kulinsky called the Internet a trashcan. We can give various names to this
phenomenon, but a fact is still a fact: this area has greatly discredited itself. Official press
discredited itself even earlier, and we have to do only one thing: we must be better
informed, and we must be more courageous. The extent of your courage will be
determined by two factors: your personal perception of the environment around you, if it’s
menacing to you, because you’ve touched upon some forces; and recommendations made
by your relatives, friends, boyfriends, etc., i.e. the people who are important for you. No
one else will protect you. If you decide that your security ends here, that beyond that line
there is a fatal end for you, then don’t be afraid of possible accusations, because it’s your
own choice, and you decided whether or not to risk your life and safety. Thus, the main
thing is to stay alive. There should be a normal instinct of self-protection. If you monitor
the situation around you and see that if you can continue to write and act recklessly, do it,
because you will have thousands of readers, interlocutors, you will be respected, which in
turn will open the door to the highest offices, and you will not have to “eat” gossips from
the Internet or word of mouth. You will be carriers of certain information that will have a
positive impact on your work and raise its quality.
Alexander Kulinsky: Thank you. Alia, please.
Alia Alzhanova: This talk about security, safety and freedom is great. But the Internet is
used by masses of people. So how can we protect people from disinformation? Any
suggestions about this?
Grigoriy Mikhailov: It’s impossible to protect people from disinformation. Give them
three reliable source of information which they would believe more. Save people from the
information vacuum so that they don’t listen to every rumor. Misinformation will always
happen, in varying degrees. Another point is that we must be selective and not eat
everything on the table.
Alia Alzhanova: I have a proposal to oblige each website to post a sign, reminding
visitors that they should not trust all information; that they should check it.
Alexander Kulinsky: Young people are often maximalist. But life is not black and white;
it is very diverse. How do you imagine that sign?
The Internet now reminds me very much of another invention of mankind – genetic
engineering. So far humanity does not know how to treat both inventions, because they
raise serious ethical and moral issues. No country in the world can handle the Internet
completely. Not yet. All attempts of filtering or restricting the dissemination of information
via the Internet are quickly neutralized by new technological inventions, innovations. China
is wasting billions of dollars to filter the Internet. Does it make sense?
Users know, anyway, how to get the information they need. Did it really help when they
blocked the Internet for two days in Kyrgyzstan? The events of April 7-8 happened,
What is the problem? There are two legal approaches - Anglo-Saxon and continental. The
Anglo-Saxon one is based on the fact that man is free and honest, and we must create the
conditions for him to be that way. While the continental system of law is based on the
theory that each of us is a potential social offender. Our own life ideology is based on this
theory. We want to create additional restrictions for ourselves that would not allow us to
commit any offense. Why do not we want to appeal to our own reason, conscience? We
have a lot of religious people, why don’t those people appeal to religion in this
case? Everyone requires limits. Our practice has shown that we cannot live freely.
I was shocked when several youth movements, which claim to be progressive, which were
ready to die for freedom and democracy, demanded the introduction of censorship on the
Internet. I see no logic in the fact that people who fought for freedom and democracy
require the introduction of censorship. And everyone explains it with the fact that there is
pornography or something else. Sorry, but you have your heads, your brains; do not
browse porn sites! There is a politician in our country who struggled with pornography and
he always indicated which TV channel showed erotic or pornographic films. I did not know
that channel showed erotic films, but he knew, and every time he required the Ministry of
Culture to stop showing these films. Excuse me, you don’t need to watch them.
If you do not like it, switch to another channel, you have always a choice. If you do not
want to read this site, do not visit it. Azamat and I do not visit Internet forums, but we do
not require that they be closed down, simply because we have our own criteria, which
prevent us from using these sites, as well as using the information from them. This is our
We must focus on the ability to use freedom, we should decide ourselves what is good and
what is not good for us, and appreciate our time. There is a story in the Bible, which which
describes what Apostle Paul said: nothing is forbidden for you, but not everything is useful
for you. If we follow this principle, no restrictions are required. I'm sure we do not need
any restrictions in our state, but everyone should understand what is useful and what is
harmful for him.
Alia Alzhanova: This understanding should be cultivated in our new generation.
Alexander Kulinsky: And you, aren’t you this new generation?
Alia Alzhanova: We are, but I am worried about the next generation.
Alexander Kulinsky: Do not worry about it, worry about yourself. If you have this
awareness in yourself, you will cultivate it in others. If you believe that we need
restrictions, your children will share the same belief. Why do you think like that? Because
your parents, the older generation, thought like that.
I'd like us to learn a lesson (I certainly do not believe it) from the events of April 6-8. The
history of Kyrgyzstan gives us too many chances, but we do not use any of them. Uzbeks
or the Turkmen have not had such chances. And we constantly have chances to change
something, to use different approaches to solve problems. But every time we return to the
starting point. We are trying to change the constitution, the legislation, the power, the
president, but we never try to understand why this happens. Why did we allow Bakiyev to
become a ruler like that? Because we all followed the principle: do not resist, stability is
more important for us and so on. But life is a causal relationship. We all, to some degree,
are responsible for what we’ve got today.
A small action of each individual leads to the creation of another society. One Swedish
human rights activist said good words: democracy starts with individual skills and the
habit of everyone to brush his/her teeth every morning. When a person begins to do this
and feels the need to do this, he feels the need for more global things. When a person
believes that he does not need to use toilet paper, then ....
Grigoriy Mikhailov: I would like to add onto the notion of chances. My mother once said
that life is a cascade of missed opportunities. I recommend we think about it, because we
It's too late to re-educate our contemporaries. We must change ourselves and educate our
children in another way; only through that can we gradually create a society which will be
well developed and democratic in the future.
But revolutionary ways have never yielded immediate results; it's a very slow and
gradual process. First, think about yourselves. And I recommend reading the book or
watching the movie - now it’s very relevant I think – Bulgakov’s “Heart of a Dog”. There is
a remarkable monologue about devastation: “devastation is in the mind, not outside of it”.
Burul Usmanalieva: When Alexander said that everyone should make his own small
steps, I remembered one man. This man is Ondorush Toktonazarov. The first time I saw
him last year, when he came to the OSCE and said that he seeks the Azattyk to be
broadcast throughout the Kyrgyz Channel. I then thought that he wouldn’t reach his aim -
he was alone, on ordinary man ... Then he protested on the main square, and it was a
heroic step at that time, no one joined him. And he blamed no one, he said: I understand
that they fear for their families, but I am like that: I follow my feelings and principles, I go
out and protest. The militia has detained him several times. Then, when the Azattyk was
closed down across the country, he became especially active. When there was a protest
rally near the OSCE office, he was one of the key persons in this action. After the
revolution he created a new movement, called "7 April”, he is not missing his chance. He
went to protest in front of the Belarusian Embassy, Kazakhstan Embassy, the OSCE. I'm
not saying that everyone should be like that; I just wanted to say that this person has
determined for himself what he wants, and he does it. Even if he is alone. Such civil action
is very useful.
Alexander Kulinsky: Well, the last comment, regarding the media education in the
universities of Kyrgyzstan. Linguists and philologists teach there, they do not know what
journalism is, international standards of journalism, they don’t know about social media,
new media. I think it is necessary to introduce some projects, new courses; we have to
change something and start with media education, because our universities train future
Even if we say that citizen journalism develops through the Internet, everyone can become
a journalist without a special education. But journalism departments graduate future
media specialists, thus media education should be changed in universities, especially in
Daniyar Karimov: As a specialist with a diploma, I can say that the higher professional
education in the field of journalism is not that significant any longer. Anyone, even without
higher education, can become a journalist. The main thing is to have a passion for this.
And the second point. I have always doubted citizen journalism, because it has an element
of incompetence. I think that in our country, it is necessary to develop secondary
education - that's the main thing. Because we have a big problem - we are faced with the
problem of a lost new generation.
Alexander Kulinsky: Thank you. Let’s finish here.