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Kyrgyzstan28 April 2006

Death threats made against editor of independent TV

Reporters Without Borders called on the government to track down whoever was behind death threats made against Yelina Cherniavskaya, director and editor of Kyrgyzstan’s oldest independent TV station, Pyramid TV.

The editor received an anonymous phone call on the evening of 25 April 2006 threatening to kill her unless she changed her editorial line. “Shut up or get ready to die”, said the voice. She later received a text message containing a similar threat.

“This attempt at intimidation, wherever it comes from, demonstrates yet again the risks run by the independent media in this country,” the press freedom organisation said.

“We urge the Kyrgyzstan government to follow the professional lead in their inquiries and to find whoever is behind these threats, but also to protect Yelina Cherniavskaya and the staff of Pyramid TV, who have been victims of harassment on several previous occasions,” it said.

Yelina Cherniavskaya lodged a complaint with the police and also demanded protection. Police were immediately deployed around the offices and her home.

She told Reporters Without Borders she was convinced the threats were linked to her work and the TV station’s broadcasting of a statement from opposition parties, exposing a dispute between Pyramid TV and people close to ousted head of state, Askar Akayev, who have unilaterally appropriated half the stock in the channel.

The district police chief, and the deputy interior minister, both put in charge of the investigation, said they have traced the phone number of the caller who made the threats.

The TV station was raided by a 20-strong gang, on 10 December 2005, who tried to hold editorial staff hostage within the building by blocking the exits and breaking doors and windows. A parliamentary committee was appointed to investigate the incident, as a result of public pressure, but no conclusions have been made public.

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