Five years ago today, press freedom in Kyrgyzstan received a deadly blow from which it has never recovered. Alisher Saipov, one of most promising and prominent regional reporters of his time, was murdered in his native city of Osh. Since that October night, authorities have promised to solve his killing, but impunity reigns to this day, Shohruh Saipov, his brother and also a journalist, told CPJ.
At the time of his murder, Saipov edited his own independent newspaper, Siyosat (Politics), but his resume was impressive for a 26-year-old reporter. In his short career, Saipov contributed to the BBC World Service, the U.S. government-funded outlets Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Moscow-based regional news website Ferghana News.
Campaigners from local rights activists to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay are urging Kyrgyz authorities to review the case of Azimjon Askarov, an investigative reporter and human rights activist serving a life sentence in Kyrgyzstan.
At a Bishkek roundtable Tuesday called "The Fourth Estate: Rule of the Game," Almambet Shykmamatov, Kyrgyzstan's justice minister, encouraged local reporters to expose government corruption, local press reported. The minister said authorities would follow up on such reports, grant security to investigative journalists, and might even pay them up to 20 percent of the funds that corrupt officials return to state coffers.
In a reply to CPJ's protest letter regarding the politicized imprisonment of journalist Igor Vinyavsky, Kazakhstan's General Prosecutor's Office said the prosecution wasn't retaliatory nor related to his journalism. CPJ publicly appealed to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev after his country's security service, the KNB, raided Vinyavsky's newsroom and apartment, confiscated reporting equipment, and imprisoned the journalist for two months. The KNB also harassed and interrogated Vinyavsky's family and local journalists who protested against his incarceration.
Last week, President Obama signed into law a bill that expands sanctions against Belarus, whose authoritarian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko continues to imprison his opponents and critics. Lukashenko unleashed the latest crackdown hours after the flawed December 2010 presidential vote, which declared him winner of a fourth term. Repression in Belarus is ongoing. Last week, authorities further tightened their grip on the media by restricting access to blacklisted websites. On Monday, a district court in Minsk jailed an independent reporter for filming a one-man protest vigil in front of the KGB headquarters.