New York, January 9, 2020 -- Kyrgyzstan authorities should conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the assault of journalist Bolot Temirov and ensure that reporters can cover corruption allegations without fearing for their safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 12:30 p.m. today, in Bishkek, the capital, three unidentified men stopped Temirov, chief editor of the independent news website Factcheck, which has recently covered allegations of official corruption, while he was on his way to work, hit him from behind, pushed him down, and kicked him and stole his phone, according to a statement posted to Facebook by his employer and news reports.
Temirov was briefly hospitalized following the attack and was treated for a concussion, said one of his colleagues, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns. Temirov lost a tooth in the attack and suffered bruises over his face, the colleague said.
“Kyrgyz authorities should conduct a swift and thorough investigation into today’s assault of journalist Bolot Temirov, and determine whether it was related to his work,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Gulnoza Said. “Authorities must prioritize journalists’ safety, especially for reporters covering sensitive issues like corruption.”
Bishkek police have opened an investigation into the incident, according to a report by Azattyk, the Kyrgyz-language service of U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Last month, Factcheck and several other news websites experienced cyberattacks after they published investigative reports on alleged corruption and the lavish lifestyles of a former custom official’s family members, according to Azattyk. Temirov’s colleague said that, because of the general response to Factcheck’s corruption reporting, they believed today’s assault was related to Temirov’s work.
On December 20, 2019, CPJ sent a joint letter to the Kyrgyz government urging authorities to investigate attacks against journalists covering corruption. CPJ called the Bishkek police today for comment but no one answered the phone.