Banished from Kyrgyzstan, journalist Bolot Temirov still under pressure a year after his unfair trial
A year after his illegal expulsion to Russia, the investigative journalist is living under the threat of attacks from the Kyrgyz authorities who, in addition to stripping him of his nationality, have had the accounts feeding his channel blocked. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on President Sadyr Japarov to put an end to this pressure and restore his Kyrgyz nationality
One year after being deported to Russia in flagrant violation of deportation procedures on 23 November 2022, investigative reporter Bolot Temirov continues to be threatened and harassed by the Kyrgyz authorities and is now living in a secret location somewhere in Europe, where he obtained refuge in March. “My sources have told me that an order has been issued to harm my physical integrity,” Temirov says.
In addition to the physical threats, Temirov’s financial resources are being restricted by M-Bank, a Kyrgyz bank run by Omurbek Babanov, a former prime minister reportedly close to the Kyrgyz intelligence agency chief who was the subject of a sensational investigative report by Temirov prior to his expulsion.
Two of the accounts created to receive donations to the Temirov Live YouTube channel have been closed one after the other. The first, in the name of an association openly intended to fund this media outlet, was closed in December 2022 without any warning or reason being given. The second one, in his wife’s name, was blocked last month, shortly after its creation and just one day after a Facebook post invited supporters to use it to donate to the YouTube channel. “We consider this as the bank's policy of restricting freedom of speech in Kyrgyzstan,” Temirov Live said
“Bolot Temirov was stripped of his nationality after revealing corruption scandals within the Kyrgyz elites. The attacks and threats to which he and his work continue to be subjected prove that the authorities, up to the highest levels of government, seem more bent on persecuting a journalist than defending the country’s interests. We urge President Japarov to put an end to this absurd situation by returning Temirov’s identity papers and allowing him to carry out his investigative reporting unmolested.
On 12 September, the Kyrgyz supreme court upheld the decision to strip Temirov of his Kyrgyz nationality although he was born in 1979 in the Kyrgyz Soviet Republic (then part of the Soviet Union) and although the statute of limitations for the alleged offence of forging his (domestic and international) Kyrgyz passports had long expired when he was first tried for this offence. In a bid to recover his Kyrgyz nationality, Temirov plans to file a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In response to the threats, Temirov has placed copies of the data gathered in the course of his ongoing investigations in a virtual safe managed by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based NGO that defends threatened journalists, so that other journalists can take up his investigations if he is killed or incapacitated.
Independent media are increasingly persecuted in Kyrgyzstan, which is no longer a press freedom exception in Central Asia. A “foreign agents” law based on Russian legislation that was passed on 25 October is now making the climate for journalists even more oppressive.
The targets of harassment include Kloop, a Kyrgyz website specialising in investigative reporting. Its Russian version has been blocked since September and its Kyrgyz version since earlier this month, and now the prosecutor’s office is trying to shut it down. Together with Deutsche Welle Akademie and the Media Freedom Coalition, RSF has asked 50 countries to give a public undertaking to support Kloop.
Kyrgyzstan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.