As violence continues, the media are increasingly being prevented from working in the south of Kyrgyzstan. News is being reported only sporadically as infrastructure is targeted and journalists obstructed by clashes.
Initially, local television stations in Osh were targeted. TV Osh, Mezon and Akhborot were ransacked, with the second two torched and wrecked, leaving computers and databases unusable. All three stations are Uzbek-language, targeted since the start of the clashes.
Before the events of 10 June, a large number of journalists were attending a seminar in Osh. In the current chaos, it is not known how many of them have been evacuated and which media they were working for. Concordant sources confirm that media in the south of the country have been advising their journalists to stay at home and not to put themselves in danger by covering the situation. Local and foreign journalists do not or rarely venture into the urban Uzbek areas for fear of being attacked.
Some news is filtering out however through journalists reporting from their windows on the current state of the troubles. They are also managing to send news to websites such as ferghana.ru, by telephone.
In Uzbekistan, on the other side of the border, which has now been closed, Reporters Without Borders voiced its relief at the news of the release on 16 June of prominent freelance Uzbek journalist, Alexei Volossevich.
Police arrested Volossevich on 13 June when he came to cover the arrival of hundreds of refugees of Uzbek origin, fleeing from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. He was placed in a detention centre for people without ID or fixed address (His papers were in a bag that he did not have the time to grab at the moment of his arrest). The authorities said they would release him as soon as they had checked his identity. Although his colleagues brought his passport the following day, he was not freed until 16 June.
Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of Alexei Volossevich, but regrets that the authorities prevented him from doing his work. Even in the current situation, the government of Islam Karimov has not let up in its attacks on journalists. The arrest and detention of Volossevich could be seen as a warning to all journalists seeking to cover these events. Could this be a continuation of the campaign against the press that saw an upsurge in January this year?
The Kyrgyz health ministry has reported that the violence of the past days has left 178 dead and 1,700 wounded. Some international bodies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross have referred to “hundreds of deaths”.