International Press Freedom Awards

Azimjon Askarov, Kyrgyzstan


2012 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee

(Courtesy of CNN)

Azimjon Askarov, a Kyrgyz journalist and human rights defender whose work has exposed official wrongdoing and abuse, is serving a life term in prison after a judicial process marred by torture, lack of evidence, and fabricated charges. His prosecution and conviction have been challenged by a range of human rights organizations as well as the Kyrgyz government's own ombudsman's office.

Askarov's articles were published on regional news websites such as Golos Svobody and Ferghana News. His work, which has resulted in the demotion of abusive law enforcement officers, includes investigations into the police torture of inmates, politicized criminal prosecutions, and human rights violations during the ethnic conflict that shook southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010.

Two days into his reporting on the deadly clashes, Askarov was himself in police custody, where he was repeatedly beaten before being charged with complicity in an officer's murder and a series of anti-state crimes. Three months later, he was sentenced to a life term on politicized charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred, calls to mass disorder, illegal possession of ammunition, attempt to take hostage, and complicity in a police officer's murder. Authorities also ordered all of his property, including his family's home, confiscated.

A CPJ special report, based on interviews with Askarov, his lawyers, and witnesses, has shown that no independent witnesses or material evidence were presented in court to support the charges against him.

In 2011, Askarov's appeal was denied. CPJ continues to call for his release.

After learning about CPJ's award on Voice of America's Uzbek service, Askarov wrote a letter of thanks. To read a translation of the full letter, click here.

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2015
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2014
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2013
Janet Hinostroza (Ecuador), Bassem Youssef (Egypt), Nedim Şener (Turkey), Nguyen Van Hai (Vietnam)

2012
Mauri König (Brazil), Dhondup Wangchen (China), Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan), Mae Azango (Liberia)

2011
Mansoor al-Jamri (Bahrain), Natalya Radina (Belarus), Javier Valdez Cárdenas (Mexico), Umar Cheema (Pakistan)

2010
Mohammad Davari (Iran), Nadira Isayeva (Russia), Dawit Kebede (Ethiopia), Laureano Márquez (Venezuela)

2009
Mustafa Haji Abdinur (Somalia), Naziha Réjiba (Tunisia), Eynulla Fatullayev (Azerbijan), J.S. Tissainayagam (Sri Lanka)

2008
Bilal Hussein (Iraq), Danish Karokhel and Farida Nekzad (Afghanistan), Andrew Mwenda (Uganda), Hector Maseda Gutiérrez (Cuba)

2007
Dmitry Muratov (Russia), Mazhar Abbas (Pakistan), Adela Navarro Bello (Mexico), Gao Qinrong (China)

2006
Jesús Abad Colorado (Colombia), Jamal Amer (Yemen), Madi Ceesay (The Gambia), Atwar Bahjat (Iraq)

2005
Galima Bukharbaeva (Uzbekistan), Beatrice Mtetwa (Zimbabwe), Lúcio Flávio Pinto (Brazil), Shi Tao (China)

2004
Svetlana Kalinkina (Belarus), Aung Pwint and Thaung Tun (Burma), Alexis Sinduhije (Burundi), Paul Klebnikov (United States)

2003
Abdul Samay Hamed (Afghanistan), Aboubakr Jamai (Morocco), Musa Muradov (Russia), Manuel Vázquez Portal (Cuba)

2002
Ignacio Gómez (Colombia), Tipu Sultan (Bangladesh), Irina Petrushova (Kazakhstan), Fesshaye Yohannes (Eritrea)

2001
Jiang Weiping (China), Geoff Nyarota (Zimbabwe), Horacio Verbitsky (Argentina), Mazen Dana (West Bank)

2000
Zeljko Kopanja (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Modeste Mutinga (DRC), Steven Gan (Malaysia), Mashallah Shamsolvaezin (Iran)

1999
Jesús Joel Díaz Hernández (Cuba), Baton Haxhiu (Kosovo), Jugnu Mohsin and Najam Sethi (Pakistan), María Cristina Caballero (Columbia)

1998
Grémah Boucar (Niger), Gustavo Gorriti (Panama), Pavel Sheremet (Belarus), Ruth Simon (Eritrea)

1997
Viktor Ivancic (Croatia), Freedom Neruda (Ivory Coast), Christine Anyanwu (Nigeria). Ying Chan (United States) and Shieh Chung-Liang (Taiwan)

1996
Ocak Isik Yurtçu (Turkey), Daoud Kuttab (Palestinian Authority), J. Jesus Blancornelas (Mexico), Yusuf Jameel (India)