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Activists: Kyrgyz Campaign 'Not Free or Fair'

Opposition candidates and journalists say international standards are being violated in the Kyrgyz parliamentary election campaign and fear the government will act to close independent newspapers before the election next month.

Zamira Sydykova is chief editor of the newspaper ResPublika in Bishkek that recently published secret documents critical of the government.

The paper is refusing to disclose the source and Ms. Sydykova fears the paper could be forced to close in a few weeks.

"First the prosecutor will open the case against the newspaper and then send a letter to the printing house to stop printing of our newspaper and arrest our accounts," she said. "The TV media is controlled and owned by the family of the president. A lot of newspapers are owned by the government".

Ms. Sydykova says there are also violations of the right to peaceful assembly and politically motivated charges against opposition leaders.

The director of the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Aaron Rhodes, told VOA elections in Kyrgyzstan are not free or fair.

"There is evidence of increasing disquiet with the Akayev regime and especially in the course of this current parliamentary campaign president Akayev, a number of his family members are running for parliament and a number of the family members of other people in his administration are running for parliament so what people are saying is that he took over the government and now he is trying to take over the parliament as well," he said.

Mr. Rhodes says in the mid-1990s there were some political freedoms in the former Soviet Republic and believes there is a foundation for what he calls "normalization".

But President Askar Akayev has rejected any kind of "Orange" or "Rose" Revolution that occurred in the Ukraine or Georgia and has recently intensified relations with Moscow.

A spokesman at the Kyrgyz embassy in Vienna was not available for comment, but an official said a statement would be made nearer election day.

The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe has a team of election observers in Kyrgyzstan and will report on the conduct and campaign of the election at the end of next month.