...thanks to the help of a contact in Central Asia, I see that the Bakiev administration had effectively shut down all opposition media in the months and weeks prior to the April 7th revolution, which isn't all that surprising.
What is surprising, however, is that Microsoft appears to have helped Bakiev do it. Essentially, Microsoft's Kyrgyzstan agent assisted the Kyrgyz authorities in cracking down on dissenting media five days before last week's uprising...
By April 1st, independent journalism in Kyrgyzstan was dead, both in print and online. A Fergana.ru article calls March 10, 2010 "the beginning of the regime of silence". The next target was a Kazakhstan Internet television station called "Stan TV" which served neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
This is where Microsoft comes in. According to the local 24.kg news agency, agents of the State Financial Police and a representative of Microsoft arrived armed with an order from the Kyrgyzstan Prosecutor General's office to seal all the station's equipment. This included confiscating private laptops that were on the premises at the time. The justification for this action was the charge from Microsoft's agent that Stan Media LLC may be using pirated Microsoft software. This charge had yet to be proven, however the station was shut down pending such time when a final determination could be made. A Stan TV official was quoted as saying:
“We understand that actions of the financial police, possibly, break rules of proceedings, but we made no resistance to the police. We asked human rights organizations for help”, editorial director of the STAN-TV Kirill Stepanyuk added."
CPJ, a non-profit organization based in New York, has pointed out that this is an oft-used tactic by regional authorities to quash dissent. I've made a request for an official comment from Microsoft about their role in this incident, but so far no response has been forthcoming....
....the closure of Stan TV by the State financial police under the auspices of an alleged Microsoft infringement case was either a mind-numbing example of corporate greed or corporate stupidity (i.e., Redmond legal had no idea that an infringement case was being pursued by its Kyrgyzstan agent). That this infringement action was taken during a time of systemic repression, violence, and murder on the part of the Kyrgz Security Services (run by the brother of President Bakiev) against Bakiev's political opposition ultimately leading to a coup 5 days after the Stan TV closure is, to put it mildly, a potential PR disaster of epic proportions for the Redmond software giant (and my former employer). Should a response from Redmond's PR firm be forthcoming, I'll update this post accordingly.
Be seeing you.