A photo of Baktursun Jorobekov (left) showing injuries from his beating on October 26 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; at right, the journalist before the attack. (Photo: Super TV)

Journalist Baktursun Jorobekov beaten unconscious in Kyrgyzstan

Stockholm, November 2, 2022 – Kyrgyz authorities should fully and swiftly investigate a recent attack on journalist Baktursun Jorobekov and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On the evening of Wednesday, October 26, four unidentified men severely beat Jorobekov, a correspondent with the independent broadcaster Super TV, near his home in the capital Bishkek and stole his phone and wallet, according to news reports and Super TV editor-in-chief Elvira Karaeva, who spoke to CPJ by messaging app.

The attackers filmed the beating and forced Jorobekov to apologize to a man who was the subject of one of his reports before repeatedly kicking him in the head, Karaeva said. She said that Super TV is not disclosing the content of the report or the name of the subject at the request of the police who asked the broadcaster not to publicize the information while officers conduct an investigation. Karaeva said Jorobekov had previously received threats that he believed were related to the same report, but did not go into further detail. 

The journalist lay unconscious in the street for almost five hours after the attack before regaining consciousness and returning home. As of Wednesday, he remains in a hospital undergoing treatment for a concussion and severe bruising to his head, she said.

“The brutal beating of journalist Baktursun Jorobekov cannot go unpunished,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Kyrgyz authorities must demonstrate their dedication to upholding journalists’ safety by swiftly and transparently investigating the attack on Jorobekov and holding all involved to account, including those who may have ordered the attack.”

Jorobekov told CPJ by messaging app that unidentified individuals had called him multiple times and threatened to kill him earlier this year, but was unable to respond to further questions due to his medical condition. Karaeva told CPJ that Jorobekov had stopped taking calls from the number from which the threats were issued, but the same number had repeatedly called Super TV’s editorial offices, including on the day of the attack, asking for Jorobekov.

In an interview with his employer, Jorobekov said he left home around 11:30 p.m. to go to a nearby pharmacy and was approached by four men who asked him for a cigarette. When he said he didn’t smoke, two of the men grabbed him, hit him, and took his phone and wallet.

One of the men looked through his wallet, took 3,500 som (US$42), and found a press card, saying, “Oh, you’re a journalist working at Super TV.” The same man then said, “Let’s kill him,” and three of the men repeatedly kicked the journalist in the head while the fourth filmed Jorobekov’s forced apology.

Jorobekov filed a complaint with police the following day, according to that interview; police have opened a case for theft, Karaeva told CPJ, and are awaiting medical results before opening a case for infliction of bodily harm.

Super TV broadcasts news and entertainment and is one of Kyrgyzstan’s most popular television channels, with 1.3 million subscribers on YouTube, the outlet’s director, Baktygul Sokushova told CPJ by telephone. Jorobekov covers social problems and court disputes, Sokushova said; she said that Super TV receives threats in relation to its coverage of these topics. 

CPJ emailed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan for comment, but did not immediately receive a reply. CPJ called the police station where Jorobekov filed his complaint but no one with knowledge of the case was able to immediately reply.

An analysis by independent outlet Kloop found that perpetrators of physical attacks against members of the press in Kyrgyzstan were caught in only a quarter of cases between January 2015 and July 2021.