Kyrgyzstan’s secret police are set to begin monitoring the Internet for what it calls hate speech, according to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting. The country’s security agency, the GKNB (State Committee for National Security), will launch a system next April that will search Kyrgyz-language websites and .kg websites for, “content liable to incite hatred on grounds of ethnicity, religion and even regional origin,” following recommendations from a Kyrgyz parliamentary commission. But critics are concerned that the new system could lead to increased government surveillance and censorship.
Tatiana Vygovskaya, director of a Bishkek-based NGO, expressed concern to IWPR that Kyrgyzstan’s security service may not be suited to monitor the Internet. Critics warn that the GKNB could link online materials collected through the new system with information from existing databases of phone, email, and SMS surveillance, and therein giving ever more increasing powers of surveillance to the security services.
A State Department report on human rights in Kyrgyzstan outlines the GKNB’s history of abuse. Speaking to IWPR, director of Kyrgyzstan’s Media Policy Institute Begaim Usenova warned that this new system could bring about increased censorship. Usenova opted that transparent and accountable civil society groups are more fit to monitor and track hate speech.
Hate speech has been a top government concern since the outbreak of inter-ethnic violence in the country’s south in the Spring of 2010. In May, Vladimir Farafonov, an ethnic-Russian journalist was charged for inciting ethnic hatred and extremism, becoming the first to be prosecuted under the country’s hate speech laws since 2010. Critics fear that with the new system, the potential for censorship, and the prosecution of journalists, could increase substantively.