Shouting Freedom! and waving banners, Kyrgyz protesters appealed Monday to European organizations to help them regain access to independent news websites they say have been blocked by the state.
Internet users in the mainly Muslim Central Asian nation have been unable to access websites such as ferghana.ru, a leading news website, and paruskg.info, a local opposition website, for about a week.
At a rally outside the Kyrgyzstan office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, about 50 activists rallied to urge European officials to intervene.
This rally is a symbol of our demand that Kyrgyzstan fulfill its obligations, said Dinara Oshurakhunova, one of the organizers. We demand that local authorities and international organizations take action over what is happening in Kyrgyzstan.
Battered by an economic slump, the poor nation has seen a rise in public discontent this year, with the opposition seeking to seize the opportunity to consolidate their movement.
Kyrgyzstan is home to U.S. and Russian military air bases and its stability is key to preserving calm in Central Asia.
Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov, addressing reporters earlier in the day, said he was unaware of any websites being blocked.
Kyrgyz telecommunications officials said it could be a technical glitch related to regulation policies in neighboring Kazakhstan.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power in 2005 after riots toppled his predecessor, has been accused by the opposition of tightening his grip on power and failing to alleviate poverty and corruption.
Rally participants said the websites have been inaccessible since a March 10 protest against a government decision to raise utility prices in the town of Naryn.
They said the Kyrgyz-language radio station of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has also been unavailable in most parts of the country for days. Officials could not be reached for comment on the possible reason.
(Writing by Maria Golovnina)