Kyrgyzstan Court extends Custody of 4 Journalists

Published: 08 June 2024

Tynystan Source  Bektur Orgubaev PolitKlinikaTynystan Asypbekov, investigative reporter, in court. (Photo: PolitKlinika)

By Metin Kazama

A Kyrgyz court ordered on Friday that four reporters, who were charged in January with “inciting mass unrest” through their investigative stories about corruption in the Central Asian country, remain in pre-trial detention until August 8, according to their editor, Bolot Temirov.

The four belong to a group of 11 current or former employees of Temirov Live, an investigative outlet and OCCRP partner that has repeatedly exposed corruption among government officials.

The journalists have rejected the government’s accusations against them. The case is seen as part of a government crackdown on independent media.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said in December that it had found “information calling for mass unrest” on the Temirov Live social media account and that after a forensic linguistic examination, the journalists were detained, their apartments were searched, and a criminal case was launched against them.

Soon after, seven were released but put under house arrest. Meanwhile, charges against two of those under house arrest have been dropped, but they still can’t leave the country.

The lawyer of one of the detained reporters told OCCRP that the accusations were “completely untrue” and that the case “has a political overtone.”

International advocacy groups and politicians have condemned the case against Temirov Live journalists, noting a recent pattern of attack on media and civil society.

Kyrgyzstan had been seen as democratic leader in a region characterized by autocracy and corruption, but the country has been backsliding over the past few years under president Japarov, critics say.

In the worldwide press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, Kyrgyzstan last year  fell 50 spots to 122 out of 180 countries.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called the arrests of the Temirov Live journalists “an unprecedented assault on press freedom in modern Kyrgyz history.”