International Organizations Call on Kyrgyzstan to Stop Crackdown on Independent Press

International organizations and media watchdogs have expressed concern about the arrests of independent journalists in Kyrgyzstan and called on the authorities to immediately release them and end pressure on the independent press. On January 15th, officers from the State Committee for National Security arrived at the offices of news agency in Bishkek, seizing equipment and detaining three journalists, including its editor-in-chief, in a case involving “propagating war” related to an unspecified report about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The three were later released, but ordered not to reveal details of the case.

On January 16th, the Interior Ministry detained eleven journalists and media workers from the Temirov Live investigative group and the Ait Ait Dese project. Temirov Live’s founder, prominent investigative journalist Bolot Temirov said the journalists who were detained after their homes and offices were searched included his wife and the director of the Temirov Live group, Makhabat Tajybek-kyzy. Police later placed all elevn under arrest for 48 hours, pending a court ruling on further custody measures. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the searches and detentions were linked to a probe launched into unspecified Temirov Live publications that “carried elements of calls for mass unrest.”

“The search and sealing off of the premises of the news outlet in Kyrgyzstan is deeply concerning,” OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Teresa Ribeiro posted on Twitter. “Such criminal investigations may have a chilling effect on media freedom and reporting on important issues of public interest in the country.”

UN Human Rights Office spokesperson, Liz Throssell also expressed concern. “These latest actions by the authorities appear to be part of a larger pattern of pressure against civil society activists, journalists and other critics of the authorities… We call on the authorities to protect freedom of expression and ensure that media legislation in the country is in line with international human rights standards,” she said in a statement.