On July 25, 2020, journalist Azimjon Askarov died in prison from health complications that his family suspect to be COVID-19. Authorities refused to administer a test to Askarov, who had been sick with a fever for weeks, according to his wife. Askarov, a contributor to independent news websites including Voice of Freedom, was imprisoned in June 2010 for his coverage of ethnic conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan. He spent over a decade behind bars.
Authorities Kyrgyzstan resisted international calls for his release, despite widespread international condemnation. In July 2019, a provincial court again upheld his life sentence, and in May 2020, Askarov lost his final appeal to the Supreme Court. CPJ’s tireless work on his behalf spans a decade; from international missions, to high-level meetings and events, to multiple campaigns, including #FreeAzimjon. We shared his story with politicians and policymakers in Brussels, Washington, D.C., and at the U.N., but to no avail.
That his death was avoidable makes it all the more heartbreaking.