Stockholm, February 6, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday condemned a Kyrgyzstan court’s decision to uphold the two-month pretrial detention of 11 journalists, who are current and former employees of the anti-corruption investigative outlet Temirov Live.
“By confirming the arrests of 11 journalists—an unprecedented assault on press freedom in modern Kyrgyz history—authorities in Kyrgyzstan are choosing to shatter the country’s long-held reputation as a haven for free speech in Central Asia,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should immediately release all 11 detained current and former journalists of Temirov Live, withdraw the trumped-up charges against them, and end their crackdown on independent reporting.”
In several hearings between February 1 and February 6, the Bishkek City Court rejected the appeals of current Temirov Live staff Makhabat Tajibek kyzy, Aike Beishekeyeva, Akyl Orozbekov, Sapar Akunbekov, and Azamat Ishenbekov, and the outlet’s former staff Aktilek Kaparov, Tynystan Asypbekov, Joodar Buzumov, Saipidin Sultanaliev, Maksat Tajibek uulu, and Jumabek Turdaliev of their January 16 arrests and pretrial detention, according to reports and Bolot Temirov, the outlet’s founder, who spoke to CPJ by messaging app from exile.
In a series of raids on January 16, police searched Temirov Live’s office and the 11 journalists’ homes and arrested the journalists on charges of calling for mass unrest in unspecified publications by Temirov Live and sister project Ait Ait Dese. If convicted, the journalists face between five and eight years in prison under Article 278 Part 3 of Kyrgyzstan’s criminal code.
Temirov Live is known for its anti-corruption investigations into senior government officials and has more than 265,000 subscribers on its YouTube channels. Authorities deported Kyrgyzstan-born Temirov in November 2022 and banned him from entering the country for five years in connection to his reporting.
In recent months, Kyrgyz authorities have launched an unprecedented attack on independent media. On January 15, security services raided privately owned news website 24.kg and opened a criminal case for “propaganda of war.” Authorities are currently seeking to shutter Kloop, a local partner of global investigative network Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and last year blocked Radio Azattyk, the local service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), and ordered it closed, reversing their decision several months later after the outlet deleted a report that authorities had demanded be removed.