Office of independent TV station 3 Kanal firebombed in Kyrgyzstan

New York, June 9, 2020 – Kyrgyzstan authorities should conduct a quick and thorough investigation into the arson attack on the office of the 3 Kanal broadcaster, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

At around 7 a.m. on June 7, unidentified attackers threw a Molotov cocktail through a window of the independent television station’s office in the northern city of Talas, according to media reports and the director of the broadcaster, Zhannat Toktosunova, who communicated with CPJ via email.

Toktosunova said no one was in the office at the time, but said the fire damaged the outlet’s broadcasting equipment, which has prevented 3 Kanal from broadcasting. She estimated the damage to be worth up to $15,000, and said the equipment will not be easily replaced.

Toktosunova told CPJ said that the station recently received criticism from government supporters on social media, who alleged 3 Kanal was “disseminating western values” after it rebroadcast programs by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyz and Russian-language services.

The Talas regional police department opened an investigation into the attack, according to those news reports.

“Kyrgyz authorities must find the arsonists behind the attack on the independent 3 Kanal broadcaster, hold them to account, and ensure the safety of 3 Kanal’s journalists and staff,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Gulnoza Said. “Media outlets in Kyrgyzstan should not face harassment or attacks in connection to their coverage.”

Toktosunova said that authorities previously summoned her and other 3 Kanal journalists and requested that they modify their coverage, but said “we always refused because we are independent.”

She said that she and her husband, who founded 3 Kanal together, have been critical of the Kyrgyz government and attended recent anti-government protests. Her husband previously founded another independent television network, Next TV, and a broadcaster, Next FM, Toktosunova said.

CPJ emailed Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Interior for comment, and received a confirmation that the request had been received, but did not receive any comment on the incident.