Kyrgyzstan13 December 2007
Police disperse demonstrators paying tribute to slain journalist
Police broke up a demonstration staged by journalists and human rights activists outside government headquarters in the capital, Bishkek, to remind the authorities that the murderers of journalist Alisher Sayipov have still not been identified. The protest was held on 4 th ofdecember, four weeks after he was gunned on a street in the southern city of Osh on 24 October.
The demonstrators planted a tree and then invited passers-by to join them in trying ribbons to it. It was at this point that the police intervened, demanded to know who had organised the protest, and dug up the tree. The Bishkek police chief repeatedly said the demonstration was not authorised.
Sayipov’s death was also marked by a minute’s silence at a congress of Kyrgyz journalists on 8 December. Many international organisations, including Reporters Without Borders, have called on the authorities to quickly identify and punish both those who carried out his murder and those who gave the orders.
Sayipov had repeatedly been threatened by Uzbek intelligence service because of articles criticising Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
6 November 2007
Political pressure threatens to stall investigation of murder of ethnic Uzbek journalist Alisher Saipov
Reporters Without Borders said today that recent developments and statements made it fear that the authorities in Kyrgyzstan lack the will to properly investigate the murder of journalist Alisher Saipov, against whom a campaign of vilification has been launched.
Saipov was shot dead on the evening of 24 October 2007, close to the premises of Radio Free Europe in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh. He had frequently been threatened by the secret services of neighbouring Uzbekistan because of his articles, accessible to Uzbeks online, that were highly critical of the regime of Islam Karimov.
His investigative work was also read in the Ferghana valley, bordering southern Kyrgyzstan, where the newspaper he founded, Siyosat (Politics), was sold. A few days before his death he confided to the BBC Central Asia correspondent, Natalia Antelava, that a price had been put on his head, but he believed himself safe on the other side of the border with Uzbekistan.
“We urge the government to realise the seriousness of this murder of one of the very few independent voices in Uzbek journalism,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The way this murder was carried out, in public and in broad daylight, amounts to a message of intimidation to all independent journalists in central Asia.”
“We warn the authorities against making any dangerous calculation. The positive image enjoyed by Kyrgyzstan in the international community will suffer immeasurably, if it instantly rules out leads implicating its powerful Uzbek neighbour, particularly if it tries to hide illegal acts by agents of foreign intelligence services on Kyrgyz soil, who could be implicated in Alisher Saipov’s death,” said the organisation.
“An unworthy campaign to vilify Alisher Sayipov has already begun. We urge the authorities to drop it. Alisher Sayipov was a competent professional journalist who was committed to democracy. The fact that he was in touch with members of movements that were banned in the country does not make him a criminal. Alisher Sayipov, who was 26 an
d father of a little girl, is the victim in this case and not a suspect. The investigation should focus on the search for those who killed him and the instigators, not on accusations against the victim,” it concluded.
Kyrgyz president, Kurmanbek Bakiev said on 25 October that he was taking over direct responsibility for the investigation and dispatched the presidency’s defence and security head, Omurbek Suvanaliev, to Osh. Human rights ombudsman Tursunbay Bakir Uulu told the BBC on 27 October that Uzbek secret services could be implicated in Saipov’s death. Interior ministry spokesman, Bakyt Seitov, confirmed this likely lead to Reuters three days later.
After making a series of statements that the jo
In addition, grants made to Siyosat by the US foundation, National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have been brought up the authorities to cast doubt on the journalist’s credibility. Finally, on 30 October 2007, Adahan Madumarov, secretary of state and a former journalist, said on Osh TV that “journalists are killed in every country, that politicians are killed too, but only over the death of journalists is so much fuss made.”
The Uzbek authorities have made no comment on aipov’s death, however, according to Radio Free Europe, several Uzbek Internet service providers on 26 October blocked access to websites commenting on the killing. This was confirmed by the independent website ferghana.ru, to which the journalist contributed.
Saipov contributed to many publications and founded the newspaper Siyosat in 2007. He was also involved with the Uzbek community in the south of Kyrgyzstan. He was assaulted by a customs officer at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border in 2002, after he produced a report on corruption among Uzbek customs officials.
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) has said that Uzbek national security services in the Osh region were suspected of several abductions of Uzbek refugees from the Andijan region as well as the death, in August 2006, of a religious leader, in an apparent anti-terrorist operation led by Kyrgyz and Uzbek special services.
Read our first article on Alisher Sayipov’s death