Azimjon Askarov, Kyrgyzstan

International Press Freedom Awards

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.

More on the Awards

• The ceremony • Awardees • König, Brazil • Wangchen, China • Askarov, Kyrgyzstan • Azango, Liberia • Rusbridger, U.K.