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30 Aug 2023

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

Kyrgyzstan: Authorities ban TikTok citing effects on children's mental health amid concerns over govt's crackdown on freedom of speech

Kyrgyz authorities ban TikTok citing effects on child development, 30 August 2023

The Kyrgyz Ministry of Culture has issued a directive to block the video-sharing app TikTok inside the Central Asian nation, citing appeals from NGOs over the social media platform's effects on the mental health of children amid concerns the government is taking moves to block free speech and the flow of information.

The ministry said...that it had directed the Digital Development Ministry to implement the law, given the application is lacking in user controls for children.

"It should be noted that TikTok engages users in a virtual realm of brief clips, and subsequent to viewing these clips, teenagers attempt to replicate certain actions depicted in these clips, some of which endanger their lives," the Culture Ministry said.

TikTok did not immediately respond to the move, but previously has said it has safeguards to moderate content and protect minors.

Access to information through social media and the general media has become a hot topic in Kyrgyzstan after a series of moves by the government that many argue are aimed at stifling free speech...

Kyrgyzstan's civil society and independent press have been among the most robust in Central Asia, though the landscape has shifted due to an escalating government crackdown.

Efforts to regulate social media and bloggers persist, with some bloggers being arrested and constraints imposed on writing critical posts.

Over 20 individuals, including NGO leaders and activists, are currently facing trials on serious charges for their opposition to a contentious border agreement between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan from the previous year...