Kyrgyzstan arrests 11 journalists who exposed corruption: RSF denounces a purge of investigative journalism

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a crackdown on investigative journalism in Kyrgyzstan, where 11 reporters who specialise in covering corruption and who have all worked for the Temirov LIVE investigative YouTube channel were arrested on questionable grounds on 16 January. They must be released at once, RSF says.


The arrests began early this morning at the home of Makhabat Tazhibek, who runs the Temirov LIVE and Ait Ait Dese investigative YouTube channels. Within a few hours, the police had arrested a total of 11 journalists who were working or had worked on journalistic investigations linked to corruption involving Kyrgyz elites, especially those close to President Sadyr Japarov. 

Shortly after the raids began, the interior ministry issued a statement announcing that, as a result of “forensic linguistic examination” of content found on the social media pages of Temirov LIVE and Ait Ait Dese on 30 December, criminal proceedings had been initiated against them under article 278, part 3 of the penal code for “calling for riots.”

 When contacted by RSF, Temirov LIVE founder Bolot Temirov, who is Tazhibek’s husband and who now lives in forced exile, said he did not know what content the interior ministry was referring to as Temirov LIVE did not publish anything on 30 December.

“This wave of arrests on the basis of a dubious charge amounts to a purge of local investigative journalism. The 11 arrested journalists have one thing in common. They all worked for the Temirov LIVE channel. Investigating corruption is not a crime and police should not be used as a tool of intimidation. We denounce this witch-hunt against journalists and call on the Kyrgyz authorities to release them at once.

Jeanne Cavelier
head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk

Temirov said the arrests could be linked to a widely covered investigation demonstrating interior minister Ulan Niyazbekov’s links to Kamshy Kolbayev, a local crime boss who was gunned down by the security forces on 4 October. Temirov’s reporters also recently investigated  President Japarov’s son’s business, and the cost of the flights that the president and his family took during the New Year festivities. 

The State Committee for National Security, the intelligence agency responsible for combatting terrorism, raided the premises of the independent news site yesterday, on 15 January, and questioned its director, Asel Otorbaeva, and two editors as part of a criminal investigation into “war propaganda” in connection with an article about Ukraine.

The same day, two parliamentary commissions examined a controversial bill that is liable to restrict media freedom even more in Kyrgyzstan, which is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index after falling 50 places last year.

122/ 180
Score : 49.91
Published on
Updated on 16.01.2024

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