Journalist Azimjon Askarov is seen at a court in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on October 11, 2016. On Tuesday, the country’s Supreme Court adjourned the hearing of Askarov’s final appeal until April 7. (AP/Vladimir Voronin)
Journalist Azimjon Askarov is seen at a court in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on October 11, 2016. CPJ called on the EU to press for justice in Askarov's case in upcoming talks with Kyrgyz authorities. (AP/Vladimir Voronin)

EU must seek justice for Kyrgyz journalist Azimjon Askarov in upcoming talks

Brussels, June 2, 2021 – The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on European Union officials to use upcoming talks with the Kyrgyzstan government to seek justice for the death of imprisoned journalist Azimjon Askarov.

Askarov died in prison on July 25, 2020, as CPJ documented at the time; he had been sick in prison for weeks and his family suspected that he had contracted COVID-19, but authorities refused to test him. On June 4, EU and Kyrgyz representatives are scheduled to meet and discuss a range of issues from trade relations to human rights, in the context of the EU-Kyrgyz Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

“The European Union must push Kyrgyz authorities to allow for an independent investigation into journalist Azimjon Askarov’s death. The EU should also press Kyrgyz officials to publicly apologize for Askarov’s unjust death in detention, expunge the criminal case from his record, and compensate his family,” said Tom Gibson, CPJ’s EU representative. “The EU must defend its own credibility by ensuring that these demands are met.”

Throughout 2020, the European External Action Service issued demands for Askarov’s release, both before and after he became ill. Askarov was convicted in September 2010 on charges that included “incitement to ethnic hatred” in response to his coverage of ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan earlier that year.