October 25, 2007
His Excellency Kurmanbek Bakiyev
President of the Kyrgyz Republic
Via facsimile: + 996 (312) 62 7072 and +996 (312) 21 8627
The Committee to Protect Journalists urges you to use all of the resources of your office to ensure that a thorough, timely, independent, and transparent investigation is undertaken into the slaying of prominent journalist Alisher Saipov, who was shot in southern Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday.
Saipov, 26, editor of the independent Uzbek-language weekly Siyosat (Politics) and contributor to several regional news outlets, was shot three times at a close range by an unknown gunman in downtown Osh. He died at the scene. The Osh branch of the Ministry of Interior said in a statement that bullet casings from a Makarov pistol were recovered from the scene, the news agency Regnum reported.
According to the Kyrgyz Service of U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, you have taken direct oversight of the case. We urge you to ensure that the case receives high priority and that investigators pursue Saipov’s journalism as the potential motive.
Saipov covered regional political and social issues for RFE/RL, Voice of America, the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and the popular Central Asia news Web site Ferghana. In March 2005, he reported on the Tulip Revolution, which brought down the administration of your predecessor, Askar Akayev. Saipov was a committed journalist who was respected by his colleagues for his professional and uncompromising work.
An ethnic Uzbek, Saipov reported extensively on Uzbekistan’s social and political issues. This year, he established the Uzbek-language weekly Siyosat (Politics), which became popular in both the Uzbek and the Kyrgyz parts of the Ferghana Valley. Based in Osh, Saipov covered the aftermath of the mass killings in the Uzbek city of Andijan in May 2005. Uzbek government troops shot at crowds of civilians who were protesting President Islam Karimov’s regime. The official crackdown resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and led to the mass exodus of Uzbeks seeking refuge in Kyrgyzstan. Saipov reported on the conditions facing Uzbek refugees who had fled and resettled in Kyrgyzstan.
Prior to his murder, Saipov had received anonymous threats warning him to stop his press and political activities, and he had been followed by unknown people, a local source close to the journalist told CPJ. A state television channel in the Uzbek city of Namangan recently aired a program smearing Saipov as a provocateur who tried to destabilize Uzbekistan with his reporting. Several Uzbek state publications ran similar pieces.
According to CPJ sources and press reports, Uzbek security services have infiltrated southern Kyrgyzstan and have harassed exiled activists and independent journalists who continue reporting on the repressive policies of Karimov’s regime. According to local press reports, Uzbek security agents have been spotted in the heavily ethnic-Uzbek city of Osh.
We are shocked by this brazen crime, which took the life of a young journalist who contributed through his work to democracy-building in Kyrgyzstan and the region. An immediate and thorough investigation into the brutal murder of Alisher Saipov will demonstrate your personal commitment to press freedom and your readiness to stop injustice in a swift and resolute manner. Journalists working in Kyrgyzstan should not be prevented from doing their job because they are fearful of attack. You are in a unique position to ensure that journalists and press freedom are protected.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.