Nargiza Muratalieva: Information Policy as Weak Link in Kyrgyzstan’s Security
“The fact that information policy is necessary for development of any state is indisputable. It is important to not only formulate and determine the direction, aims and objectives of information policy, but also, constantly work on its implementation “- issues in kyrgyz information policy sphere, are explained by political analyst Nargiza Muratalieva, exclusively for CABAR.asia
Ideally, every state should develop their own vision of information policy with its inherent specific features and characteristics of a country. Inconsistent information policy, can lead to conflicts at all levels of society, government and the information industry.
To resolve this issue, in January 2016 the president of Kyrgyz Republic gave an order to create a working group that will develop a draft concept of the country’s information policy, where by 1st of June the main areas of work for the development of the national information space should be reflected. One should note that this decision is very delayed in comparison to other Central Asian countries: for instance, information security concept (which also reflects the information policy) has been worked out and adopted in Kazakhstan before 2016, in Tajikistan it was adopted back in 2003.
What remains an important question is which government institutions of Kyrgyzstan will be responsible for successful implementation of the program document? Whether the concept will become one more declaration of intentions, which will remain on paper?
The weak interaction between the government and society is caused, in many respects, due to the absence of information security concept in Kyrgyzstan, which has to make basis for development of clear information policy. In this aspect, established mechanism of the state policy information-support has a special value, essence of which is to create an information and communication infrastructure (creation of television channels, newspapers, magazines, radio stations, the websites, accounts in social networks, development of the software, etc.) which will distribute necessary information (the principles, purposes, tasks, innovations, etc. of the state policy) to the public. 
It is necessary to emphasize that, despite the presence of the powerful instrument of impact on public opinion – mass media in the state’s hands, the government has no accurate position on this matter. For example, speaking about such mass media segment as television, one can easily notice that the content of public channels are mainly filled with entertainment events. Apparently, the state has not succeeded in establishment of own information agenda, and the general level of consumers’ demand on domestic information products remains quite low.
Comparing this situation to other Central Asian countries, for instance, Uzbekistan has enough succeeded in formation of its own information policy, various domestic TV channels and programs, newspapers, magazines and broadcastings. In addition, movies of the Uzbek production, music, and entertainment events enjoy wide popularity. Kazakhstan is also actively working on this sphere, offering their consumers rather wide choice of TV channels and programs in Kazakh language with subtitles.
As already noted, one of the most powerful instruments for information security is television. According to the Kyrgyz television market study, conducted by “M-Vector” in 2015, commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism of the Kyrgyz Republic, the most popular TV channels in the country are domestic and Russian state channels – KTR, ORT, ELTR and Russia RTR. 
As a result, assessment of events within the country and beyond -this part of population goes into dissonance with those who are active Internet users. In particular, during the tensions in US-Russian relations, there is a tendency of public support to Russian from the rural areas of the Kyrgyz Republic and the United States has more support in Bishkek . It can be noticed that the national information field is sufficiently pronounced by foreign influence.
Several problems highlighted in the Kyrgyz informational field:
Firstly, in Kyrgyzstan, there is a problem of filling the content of existing government channels. Mainly, this issue occurs due to lack of qualified experts on various aspects of socio-political life and developed analytical centers. Interviews and discussions with the representatives of these centers could form the basis for information and analytical programs. The absence of qualitative analysis of the state policy results in exposure of citizens to manipulation via information and leads to frequent social unrest.
Secondly, the Kyrgyz government is trying to implement the same methods of struggle against extremism and terrorist groups in Internet as it does in social media – “physical removal” ban and blocking (accounts and sites).  In this aspect, two points should be considered:
- The blocked account may be fake, or one of several created by one person, and the closure will follow by opening another one;
- Blocking web sites due to extremist materials distributed on them should be based on carefully conducted expertise; otherwise, these actions of state bodies can be considered as a violation of the citizen’s right to information access.
However, currently Kyrgyzstan is experiencing a shortage of qualified specialists in this field. In addition, the government has not developed criteria system, which identifies a certain material as extremist type.  As a result, absence of banned literature list and wide filed of manipulation over the expertise results is in the interest of certain individuals.
Thirdly, the Kyrgyz government needs to improve the regulatory framework regarding the information security sphere, as outdated, not taking into account the realities of modern law determines the controversial actions of the law enforcement bodies in this sphere.
Pertinent would be to mention as an example, the long-term discussions concerning the regulation of SORM- (a complex of the technical means and measures intended for operative investigation actions in telephone, mobile, wireless communication and radio communication networks) here. The main purpose of SORM – is to ensure lawful interception and wiretapping of information for the purpose of operational and investigative activities in the communication networks (telephone and Internet). According to the normative and legal regulation of the Kyrgyz Republic, access to SORM can get – State Committee for National Security, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Committee of Defense, State Penitentiary Service as well as other law enforcement agencies, if the judicial decision is available. However, many experts have raised the issue that, “wiretapping equipment can be delivered by certain individuals and used for the purpose of political and economic espionage”.  Another example of imperfection in legislative framework of Kyrgyzstan on issues of information security – is the Internet space zone and virtual user behavior. The issue of radical Islam and the use of social networks in recruitment purposes makes it necessary to create a list of banned extremist materials based on clear criteria. It is very important to make similar changes in the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic while taking into account the specifics of the Internet space.
International organizations as a discussion platform
Obviously, the solution of these problems primarily lies on the state’s internal initiatives and strategies. Meanwhile, in this regard, the coordinated actions of the international organizations’ member states is significantly cutting down the temporary and material expenses. However, Kyrgyzstan is a member of SCO and CSTO regional organizations, but the question of information security is not in the priority category. The activities of these organizations in this area was actually reduced to a delineation of the conceptual framework of joint actions (declarations on the SCO summits, agreement between the governments of SCO member states on cooperation in international information security dated, June 16, 2009). In addition, the transition of PROKSI operating within the CSTO to the permanent category and establishment of cyber incident center are not yet realized.
Under these conditions, Kyrgyzstan should clearly identify its opportunities and necessary recourses to carry out an effective information policy, and then use the platform of international organizations to promote the ideas of coordination and interaction between the country-members of these organizations in the information security field.
What are the specifics of information policy content?
The literature analysis  allowed delineating the approximate range of issues and questions that could be reflected in the information policy. (Diagram 1)
Diagram 1. What are the issues in the information policy of Kyrgyzstan? 
Information policy includes a wide range of issues, which is due to its multifaceted and versatile nature. Information policy involves not only regulating the legal matter, but also strengthening of democratic values, such as freedom of speech, freedom of expression and information exchange. Central category of the information policy advocates the construction of telecommunication structure, which defines the content and the ideological orientation of their goals.
Conclusions and recommendations
Thus, currently, there is no clear concept for information policy in Kyrgyzstan, which negatively reflects on the state security: population under the influence of different information sources and communication systems is highly vulnerable to manipulative practices, and state authorities are not able to develop mechanisms to counter them.
Development of information policy capacity largely depends on the state’s ability to improve the national content, enhance digital literacy and work on technology transfer protection and national information.
It seems reasonable to propose the following measures in order to establish strong links between the state and society in the information policy:
- strengthen telecommunication structure, for example, by creating public round-the-clock news broadcast channel with broad coverage throughout the republic;
- intensify the work of state bodies in the social networks – promotion of national kg zone social networks, as well as creating accounts in popular international social networks among the Kyrgyz population, aiming to describe the government position on a given issue;
- – To establish cooperation between state bodies and think tanks, whose assessments, recommendations, and projections would act as public guarantor of the government policy quality;
- Monitor public sentiment through sociological surveys (for example, involving, analytical centers) on the estimations of state bodies actions by the population and relevant concerns on these basis, the government should clarify their position and intensions through social networks and media.
The fact that information policy is necessary for development of any state is indisputable. It is important to not only formulate and determine the direction, aims and objectives of information policy, but also, constantly work on its implementation. Working in this direction will put in order the contradictory situation in the information field of the country, where chaos is still reigning and no creative approaches are seen from the state’s side. The information policy should be directed to the formation of its own content and agenda within the framework of democratic values in order to strengthen stability and create conditions for sustainable development.
 Yadryshnikov E.V Information support of the state policy on the Internet // URL: http://scjournal.ru/articles/issn_1997-292X_2015_3-1_53.pdf
 TV market in Kyrgyzstan before the digital TV was launch (2015) // URL: : http://soros.kg/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Analyticalreport_TVmarketresearch2015.pdf
 Alimov D. Kyrgyzstan on the edge of information security (18 September 2014) // URL: http://dem.kg/ru/article/5874/kyrgyzstan-na-ostrie-informatsionnoy-bezopasnosti
 Podolsky D. Control of the Internet: Will we overcome the ISIS recruiters? (20 November 2015) // URL: http://24.kg/perekrestok/23231/
 Sulaimanova M. The mechanisms of identifying extremist materials is not developed in Kyrgyzstan (24 February 2016) // URL: http://vestikg.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=39279:v-kyirgyizstane-ne-prorabotanyi-mehanizmyi-vyiyavleniya-ekstremistskih-materialov&Itemid=80
 Ashcheulov D. SORM or my tongue – my enemy. Mar 26, 2014. // http://slovo.kg/?p=32295
 Mokmin Basri & Zawiyah Yusof. Issues in information policy: a preliminary overview / The Proceedings of Knowledge Management International Conference (KMICe) 2008, P. 297-302. ISBN: 978-983-3827-72-5.
 The diagram was made by author, based on literature review.
Author: Nargiza Muratalieva, political analyst, (Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek).
The opinions of the author may not coincide with the position of CABAR.asia