Kyrgyzstan’s National Television and Radio Corporation (NTRC) created a network of fake social media accounts to push the Japarov administration’s policies and attack and undermine critics, according to an independent investigation’s findings.
The probe’s conclusions—published as a video report under the title Does The President Need The Support Of Fake Accounts?—was conducted by the Checkit Media group, created by seven independent media outlets in Kyrgyzstan.
The report’s main allegations have been denied by both state TV and the office of President Sadyr Japarov.
The video report claims that pro-government reportage and comments on Kyrgyz social media have increased since the taxpayer-funded NTRC last November opened a special department, SMM and New Media, to distribute information online.
Pro-government content has been posted and shared on the personal social media accounts of NTRC employees as well as on fake accounts, according to the Checkit Media report. The accounts of state TV workers are closely associated with the “troll accounts”, it further alleged.
The report described a situation in which, it said, the fake accounts were particularly active in promoting the government’s narrative against critics, independent journalists and nongovernmental organisations in high-profile court cases.
The Kempir-Abad case—involving legal action brought against 27 activists, journalists and politicians who opposed a Japarov border demarcation deal with Uzbekistan and stand accused of plotting to topple the government—was one case that sparked such activity, it said.
The SMM department is led by “Usubaly Mabmetov, who frequently shares social media posts praising the authorities”, Checkit Media determined.
It also referred to anonymous sources in claiming that “the assignments come from” Daiyrbek Orunbekov, head of the information policy department in the presidential administration.
Orunbekov has previously been connected to an alleged troll factory, said Checkit Media, recapping on how the operation was formed to back the family of former state customs agency deputy chief Raiymbek Matraimov, a key figure in a large-scale money-laundering case involving tens of millions of dollars.
RFE/RL’s Kyrgyzstan Service, Radio Azattyk, reported that Orunbekov denied the claim, calling it slanderous. He told the media outlet that Checkit Media’s claims were founded on an unconvincing anonymous source and that it “doesn’t inspire confidence.”
“[Checkit Media] took the liberty of labelling state TV journalists as trolls just because they share materials on positive developments in the country,” the official further commented to RFE/RL. Checkit Media journalists, he said, were “looking for negativity”, seeking to damage the government’s image.
NTRC in a statement “officially” denied the claim its SMM and New Media department “allegedly employs trolls who disseminate their opinions through fake accounts”.
Checkit Media was created in February as part of a project to battle fake social media accounts and the manipulation of information. It groups the media outlets April TV, Bashtan Bashta, Bulak.kg, Factcheck.kg, Media.kg, Mediahub and PolitKlinika.