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Results of Saipov Murder Investigation Deliver Blow to Free Press in Kyrgyzstan
Friday's statement by the Kyrgyz Ministry of the Interior that the October 24, 2007 murder of journalist Alisher Saipov was not politically motivated raises serious questions regarding the integrity of the investigation process and sends a worrying signal to journalists in Kyrgyzstan.
During the press conference, Dmitri Fyodorov, Kyrgyz Deputy Minister of the Interior, stated that organized criminal gangs may have been behind last year’s murder of Saipov, a 26-year-old Kyrgyzstani journalist whose killing was preceded by a months-long smear campaign against him in Uzbekistan’s government-controlled media. Saipov, who did not write about organized crime, frequently wrote articles critical of the repressive government in Uzbekistan and about cooperation between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek security services.
"The brutal killing of Alisher Saipov last October was the most shocking development in Kyrgyzstan in 2007. Given the focus of his journalism and the lack of evidence presented by the Interior Ministry, it seems highly improbable that criminal gangs were behind Saipov’s murder," said Jeff Goldstein, Senior Program Manager for Central Asian programs at Freedom House. "We call on the Kyrgyz authorities to investigate the murder more thoroughly and reassess the possible involvement of Uzbekistan’s authorities in the killing."
Kygryzstan is rated Not Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press Survey. Following the murder of Saipov, journalists from Osh reported pressure by law enforcement agencies not to cover the case and Osh TV was reprimanded for airing a documentary about Saipov. In addition to Saipov’s murder, 2007 also saw an increasing number of assaults on journalists in Kyrgyzstan, with at least five recorded attacks.
"The apparent impunity with which individuals or groups responsible for attacks on journalists are free to act sends a chilling message to journalists in Kyrgyzstan," continued Goldstein. "It is our hope that the Kyrgyz government will demonstrate a greater commitment to democratic principles by identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators of Saipov's murder and by taking necessary steps to provide a safe environment for investigative journalism."
Uzbekistan is ranked Not Free and Kyrgyzstan is ranked Partly Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's annual survey of political rights and civil liberties.
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Kyrgyzstan since 1991.
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