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Tweets are Bittersweet for Popular Kyrgyz MP

A Kyrgyz lawmaker has kick-started a debate in Kyrgyzstan about when journalists should and shouldn't be able to quote a Twitter feed to inform a news report. Shirin Aimatova, currently from the Ata-Meken faction, was outraged when local news blog and citizen media portal Kloop.kg cited her tweets during the latest parliamentary crisis in the country. Aitmatova argues that  her tweets were used without permission and fished from her “private” and now discontinued twitter account @thelostroom.

Shirin Aitmatova, Kyrgyzstani MP. Image used with her permission.

Aitmatova was famed for tweeting missives from the parliament in real time, but is apparently selective in terms of who can and can't relay those tweets. Aitmatova's “unofficial” and “private” account was followed by over 1,200 people, some of whom she had never met in person. On this occasion, her tweets concerned the potential collapse of the country's government.

The editorial team of kloop.kg responded [ru] to Shirin Aitmatova's complaint with an official reply. The response's author, Bektour Iskender, argues that Shirin Aitmatova, just like any other Kyrgyz politician, should be considered a public figure. Correspondingly, information that she publishes through her twitter account can be viewed as being in the public interest, especially when it concerns a public even rather than her private life. Iskender emphasized [ru]:

Интернет — это всего лишь новая плоскость в коммуникациях, и правила и законы в нём остаются такими же, как в оффлайновом мире.

The Internet is just a new platform for communications; the rules and laws in it remain the same as in the offline world.

A ‘burglary’

The confrontation between a popular media portal and a well-liked MP with a large online following did not go unnoticed by Kyrgyz netizens. Public opinion was split into two camps, roughly mirroring the tension between a journalist's duty to the public interest and a famous personality's right to privacy.

One commenter, J.S., made a rude comparison [ru] between Kloop's actions and a burglary.

Публикация Kloop — вульгарное вторжение в частную жизнь, а предложение редакции к открытию дискуссии по своему проступку — равносильно поиску оправдания кражи вещи из дома, в который вы были вхожи, как гость.

The publication by Kloop is a vulgar invasion of privacy, and the call to open a discussion about their misdemeanor is equivalent to looking for justification having stolen things from the house where you have been a guest.

But Reclaim Specialist disagreed [ru]:

Правильно, если написали то дело журналиста опубликовать это

This is correct, if something was written then it is a journalist's job to publish it.

Erica Marat, a Kyrgyzstani political scientist and expert on security issues in Central Asia called [ru] on Twitter for reporting restraint:

Мне кажется, что Клооп переборщил с твиттером Айтматовой. Хорошая журналистика не может строиться только на твитах закрытого аккаунта.

I think Kloop went too far with Aitmatova's twitter. Good journalism cannot be based on tweets from a closed account alone.

In the event Kloop's coverage of the coalition's near-collapse consisted of more than just Aitmatova's tweets. But debate about Twitter journalism continued to rage the following day, unsurprisingly, on Twitter, with interesting perspectives in English from @linarzairov , @bektour and @skyblue_kate.

Off Twitter

Then on December 5, hot on the heels of the row,  Aitmatova deleted [ru] her Twitter account, claiming that she had “got tired” of the micro-blogging service, thereby robbing Kyrgyz netizens of a direct line to the legislature.

Nevertheless, while Aitmatova is well regarded as a straight-talking MP, a defender of children's rights and the daughter of Kyrgyzstan's most famous author, she is not well known for her consistency. On November 29, for instance, @azat25 retweeted [ru] her apparent decision to leave her parliamentary faction Ata-Meken:

вчера я поняла, что несмотря на мое уважение и фанатизм к персоне Текебаева, я не могу оставаться во фракции

Yesterday I understood that despite my respect and fanaticism for [faction leader] Tekebayev, I cannot remain in the party [Ata-Meken].

The following day, Aitmatova announced [ru]: “the announcement of my exit from the party is premature”.

Netizens will be hoping she performs a similar u-turn over her Twitter participation. Lazat Takyrbashova, for instance, was one of many netizens who suggested [ru] that the sheer addictiveness of the social network would see her return for her fix.

тож думаю, скоро вернется. Долго не сможет…

I think she'll be back soon. She won't last long…

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

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