Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the region to provide some degree of media pluralism. Kyrgyzstan's press freedoms has been improving steadily since independence, it is now ranked 85th in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index, the best score in Central Asia.
Television is the most popular conduit of media in Kyrgyzstan, although radio and newspapers do have a good following. Internet based media popularity is rising with the increased access to the internet.
For the most part the media is open and free and reflects the Kyrgyz desire for a working democracy, however it is far from perfect. Although the existing problems should not diminish the achievements and improvements that has been made in the last decade in terms of press freedom and the building of a free society.
The nature of the media reflects the nature of the government as a parliamentary democracy, as there is a free press and an active civil society. However self-censorship still exists in certain areas such as security, elections and negative views of the administration. Media owners still dictate the direction and the editorial priorities of their outlets themselves. This influence coupled with the owner’s relationships with certain political parties or figures allows for bias coverage. This is compounded by the general lack of investigative and analytical journalism. particularly during elections. The state media in the past has been accused of being a propaganda piece of the state, at present there still is a bias towards the administration but not on the same scale. During elections, other parties have had difficulty accessing coverage outside of paid or free campaign spots.
In terms of press legislation Kyrgyzstan offers a degree of media protection. However, mishandling of certain laws has caused difficulties. In the 2011 election new media legal provisions meant that the media were hesitant to be too critical of administration figures. This was due to the lack of knowledge of the new legal restraints, which had only recently been applied before the election.
Recently there have been attempts to reintroduce punishments for media offences, alongside a proposed ban on ‘homosexual propaganda’. However, Kyrgyzstan’s civil society has been able to influence and disrupt many attempts by the government to push through certain media laws. This is a clear example of the active nature of the press and civil society and how they can act independently to government wishes.
Currently there is little direct state influence over the media, nothing compared to the full media control experienced by previous Kyrgyz presidents. State media is generally fair and gives a good coverage of the political landscape. The level of bias that exists today is based more around informal relationships between editors, owners and politicians.
Kyrgyz National TV and Radio Broadcasting Corporation - state-run, operates four networks including flagship First Channel
EITR (Public TV and Radio) - based in southern city of Osh
Channel Five - private, near-national coverage
Osh TV - private, Osh
NBT (Independent Bishkek TV) - private, Bishkek
NTS (New TV Network) - private, Bishkek
Kyrgyz National TV and Radio Broadcasting Corporation - state-run
Kyrgyzstan Obondoru (Kyrgyzstan Melody) - leading private station
Europa Plus - private, Bishkek, Osh
Hit FM Bishkek – private
Internet-based news agencies