Reporters Without Borders is very worried about an increase in attempts to intimidate Kyrgyzstan’s independent media after Kubanychbek Joldoshev, a newspaper reporter based in the southern city of Osh, became the seventh journalist to be physically attacked since the start of the year. He was badly beaten after his taxi was stopped by police on 2 November.
“Joldoshev was attacked and threatened because of what he writes,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We hope an investigation will shed light on the circumstances of this attack and identify those behind it. More and more journalists are censoring themselves or fleeing the country because of the increase in such targeted acts of violence, compounded by the failure to punish those responsible.”
A reporter for the municipal newspaper Osh Shamy, Joldoshev was returning home in the early hours of 2 November when police stopped his taxi for an “inspection” and led the driver away. While alone, he was set upon and beaten by three unidentified men who threatened him with a knife and told him to stop writing, Osh Shamy editor Turgunbay Aldakulov said.
Joldoshev was still hospitalised yesterday, receiving treatment for concussion and several broken ribs.
Aged 29, Joldoshev used to work for 5-Kanal television and Radio Azattyk (a local service of Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). Although Osh Shamy, which he joined last September, is municipally owned, he has written investigative reports about corruption, prostitution networks, and state university student unrest over an increase in fees.
He was awarded a prize as the “Best Journalist in Southern Kyrgyzstan” in 2006 by the Media Support Centre, a local NGO.
The many other journalists who have been targeted by physically violence in recent months include freelancer Syrgak Abdyldayev, who narrowly survived a murder attempt in March 2009. He was forced to leave the country two months ago after receiving renewed death threats.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the murder of Alisher Sayipov, the editor of the Uzbek-language newspaper Siyosat and correspondent of Ferghana.ru and Radio Free Europe, who was gunned down on an Osh street in October 2007, has failed to shed any light on his death and has succeeded only in creating a smokescreen of confusion.
Although his relatives and colleagues suspected that the Uzbek secret services were responsible, the Kyrgyz investigators ruled this possibility out from the very start. At the same time, the statements made by the president’s office and the interior ministry (which is in charge of the investigation) repeatedly contradicted those made by the investigators themselves, giving the impression that the authorities wanted to close the case as quickly as possible.
The interior ministry announced in August of this year that the investigation had been completed and the case was being transferred to the courts. But Sayipov’s father reported that, during a court hearing just a few days prior to this announcement, the judges had sent the case back to the prosecutor’s office, requesting further investigation.
At the same time, little information has emerged about the alleged role of Abdufarit Rasulov, who was arrested in connection with the murder, or about the evidence against him. Without going into detail, the authorities announced ten days ago that they were looking for a second suspect. Not even the Sayipov family is given any official information about the investigation.
Ranked 125th out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Kyrgyzstan seems to have dashed the hopes of democratization that were raised when the former president was swept from power in 2005.
His successor, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, won another term in much criticised elections in July and has a tight hold on the state apparatus. At the same time, heightened security concerns arising from border problems have eroded the limited freedoms that the independent Kyrgyz press had succeeded in winning.