Kyrgyz agents raid TV station, interrogate director

New York, July 13, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a Friday raid on the newsroom of the independent Uzbek-language broadcaster Osh TV in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh. The Kyrgyz security service (known as SNB) also temporarily detained director Khalil Khudaiberdiyev in the raid on the station. Osh TV is currently off the air, the Uzbek service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Armed agents with the SNB confiscated computers, hard drives, electronic documents, and CDs of digital archives, the independent regional news website Ferghana reported. Security agents also detained and interrogated Khudaiberdiyev but released him the same day after confiscating his mobile phone.  

According to Ferghana, during the raid, SNB agents did not show a search warrant. Khudaiberdiyev told Ferghana that the raid paralyzed the broadcaster, which had just recently managed to re-start its programming in the aftermath of the recent ethnic violence between Kyrgyzstan’s Kyrgyz majority and Uzbek minority in the south of the country. According to Ferghana, the raid might be related to its coverage in May of an ethnic Uzbek rally in the neighboring city of Jalal-Abad, at which an Uzbek minority leader called for greater participation of Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstani politics. Osh TV was among several media outlets ordered to cease broadcasting in mid-June.

“We call on the Kyrgyz security service to immediately return all confiscated materials and equipment to Osh TV and provide a public explanation for their interrogation of Khalil Khudaiberdiyev,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “In the aftermath of the bloody ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan, it is vital that Osh TV is allowed to broadcast without fear of reprisal.”

Khudaiberdiyev told Ferghana that security agents did not produce an official document to explain his detention or interrogation, and he was not charged. Daniil Kislov, Ferghana’s chief editor, who spoke to Khudaiberdiyev on Friday, told CPJ that interrogators did not ask the director any work-related questions and instead asked about the size of his family and the age of his children. Kislov told CPJ Khudaiberdiyev perceived the interrogation—which lasted for about two hours—as a tacit threat.