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Askar Sydykov: People should not be divided into friends and foes. We must focus on the consolidation of society

June 15, 2023

“Business associations are also part of civil society, so I consider it important to voice our opinion here,” said Askar Sydykov, Executive Director of the International Business Council, at the round table “Freedom of Speech and Human Rights in Kyrgyzstan: Threats of Legislative Initiatives” held on June 13 in Bishkek.

On behalf of the business community, he thanked the organizers of the event, emphasizing its importance, because both bills under discussion – on NGOs and on the media are important not only for civil society and the media, but also for the country as a whole.

“We have studied these bills, and the general impression is that they do create risks for civil society, non-profit organizations and for public activity,” Sydykov said

According to the IBC head, many of the negative manifestations that we have seen in our country over thee 30 years of independence, often occurred due to the indifference of citizens and society as a whole. That is why it is very important to stimulate and support social activity. And the bills under discussion, on the contrary, can limit or demotivate civic activity and public activity.

“The bill contains a vague and broad definition of political activity and political actions. And in general, it gives some negative connotation to political activity,” added Sydykov.

Whereas, according to the definitions in open sources, political activity is a part of public activity and is aimed at the public good, at the development of a particular country or local territorial unit. Therefore, such activities should be encouraged, if, of course, it is within the law.

“From more than 10 years of experience in protecting entrepreneurs and public activities, I have learned one of the important lessons: in almost any area, sooner or later, it comes down to decision-making by the state,” said Sydykov.

This may be the allocation of a land plot, the issuance of permits, licenses, or simply an agreement on the availability of utilities, infrastructure, and electricity. In order to achieve all this, business needs to voice and promote its opinion on public policy – economic, social or other directions.

“In this regard, it is impossible to limit such opportunities for citizens. Moreover, they are provided for by the Constitution. The existing legislation has enough powers for government agencies to respond to possible violations of the law by non-profit organizations,” said the IBC head.

The government agencies are now using these powers. Therefore, there is no need to create any additional definitions, restrictions, reporting, audit and other burdens for NGOs, the business association believes.

“NPOs perform the functions necessary for the state, where the government does not have time to perform them. These are training, education, skills development, clarification of complex issues to the population in a simplified form, holding public discussions and much more,” Sydykov emphasized.

As a rule, the employees, the heads of these NGOs have a good education, and they are the most progressive representatives of society who have seen the world. As world practice shows, the participation of such citizens is necessary for the development of the state. The development of the state requires democratic institutions and active participation of citizens in the decision-making process. It is precisely NGOs that perform this function, along with others.

Business circles are also concerned about the media bill.

“According to the conclusions prepared by several organizations on this bill, there are risks of limiting freedom of speech and unreasonable additional obligations and burdens for the media and a wide range of Internet resources. It is necessary to preserve and strengthen freedom of speech in our country as much as possible, which is very important both for the business community and for society as a whole – for the sustainable development of our country,” said the IBC head.

He is sure that it is not worth dividing the people into friends and foes, into non-profit and commercial, non-governmental and government organizations, with foreign participation and with local participation – no need to put any labels.

“On the contrary, we need to focus on the unity and consolidation of society and work together for the development of our country. We hope that our comments will be taken into account and the Parliament will abandon the current version of the bill,” the IBC head concluded.