In several hearings between February 1 and February 6, 2024, the Bishkek City Court rejected the appeals of 11 journalists, who are current and former employees of the anti-corruption investigative outlet Temirov Live, and upheld their pretrial detention. (Screenshot: YouTube/Radio Azattyk)
On March 12, 2024, a court extended the pre-trial detention of eight current and former staff of the investigative outlet Temirov Live, who were arrested in January over unspecified videos. Three were freed. All 11 journalists could be jailed for eight years on charges of inciting mass unrest. (Screenshot: YouTube/Radio Azattyk)

Kyrgyzstan court extends pre-trial detention of 8 anti-corruption journalists

Stockholm, March 13, 2024—Kyrgyzstan authorities should immediately drop charges against current and former Temirov Live staff, release all eight detained journalists, and reverse its crackdown on the independent press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Pervomaisky District Court in the capital, Bishkek, extended by two months the pre-trial detention of Temirov Live director Makhabat Tajibek kyzy and the outlet’s current and former staff members Aike Beishekeyeva, Azamat Ishenbekov, Saipidin Sultanaliev, Aktilek Kaparov, Tynystan Asypbekov, Joodar Buzumov, and Maksat Tajibek uulu, according to news reports.

The court also ordered Temirov Live journalist Sapar Akunbekov and camera operator Akyl Orozbekov released into house arrest and freed the outlet’s former project manager Jumabek Turdaliev under a travel ban.

All 11 continue to face charges of inciting mass unrest, which carries a jail sentence of up to eight years under Article 278, Part 3, of Kyrgyzstan’s criminal code.

“The mass detention of journalists linked to investigative outlet Temirov Live is emblematic of Kyrgyzstan’s intensifying press freedom crisis,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “By extending their incarceration, the country’s authorities are signalling their intention to continue this repressive course.”

In a series of raids on January 16, police searched Temirov Live’s office and the 11 journalists’ homes and arrested the journalists over unspecified videos by Temirov Live and sister project Ait Ait Dese. Court documents reviewed by CPJ accused Tajibek kyzy of “discrediting” state organs in those videos, “which could lead to various forms of mass unrest.”

A local partner of global investigative network Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), 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 the outlet’s Kyrgyzstan-born founder Bolot Temirov in 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 crackdown on independent reporting in a country previously seen as a regional haven for the free press. On January 15, security services raided privately owned news website and opened a criminal case for “propaganda of war.” In February, a court shuttered Kloop, another OCCRP partner.

In April 2023, a court ordered the closure of Radio Azattyk, the local service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), but reversed the decision in July after the outlet deleted a report that authorities had demanded be removed.