The instability set off by the March 2005 “Tulip Revolution” continues to plague the country and journalists are often roughed up by government and opposition activists at meetings and demonstrations. Alisher Sayipov became the first journalist to be killed in Kyrgyzstan for several years in October.
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Physical attacks on journalists increased in spring 2007. Kayrat Birimkulov, of the pro-government State TV, was beaten by two thugs on his way home in a suburb of the capital, Bishkek, on 16 March. Daniyar Isanov, news presenter for the independent TV station NTS, was beaten up by four men and hospitalised with serious facial injuries on 27 March. Talantbek Sopuyev, a reporter for TV September, was hospitalised on 31 March after being set upon by 40 men and women as he was covering a pro-government meeting in Djalal-Abad.
The editor of an independent weekly, Novaya Gazeta (unconnected with the Russian paper of the same name), received anonymous death-threats by phone in April warning him not to report on opposition meetings. A journalist with the weekly Zhany Zaman Akyikaty, in the southwestern town of Osh, got a phoned death-threat after articles appeared criticising local officials. At least four journalists were injured on 14 April by thugs in the centre of the capital on the ninth day of a series of opposition protests. The government also seized copies of several newspapers, including Agym, Kyrgyz Ruhu and Apta.
Police joined demonstrators in May to forcibly prevent journalists from covering a meeting in the southern village of Aksai. An explosion destroyed the offices of the newspapers Ekho Osha (Russian-language) and Osh Saodasi (Uzbek language) in the centre of Osh, the country’s second biggest town, on 30 May. Nearly all the archives of the two papers were lost.
A murder between two countries
Uzbek journalist Alisher Sayipov, was killed in Osh on 24 October, near the offices of Radio Free Europe, where he worked. Sayipov contributed to several publications and in 2007 had founded the newspaper Sayasat. He was also involved with the Uzbek community in southern Kyrgyzstan and the Uzbek secret police had often threatened him for his criticism of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. A few days before his death, he told the BBC stringer in Central Asia, Natalia Antelava, that a price had been put on his head.
Kyrgyz officials openly said they suspected the Uzbek secret police were involved and interior minister spokesman Bakyt Seitov repeated the accusation on 30 October. But then the explanation was that Sayipov supposedly had links to terrorist movements.
Sayipov’s colleagues, along with human rights activists, gathered in front of government offices in Bishkek on 4 December to demand that the killers be named. They planted a tree in his memory and invited bystanders to decorate it with ribbons. Police then moved in, demanded the names of the organisers and uprooted the tree. The city police chief said the protest was illegal and ordered it to disperse. Kyrgyz journalists observed a minute’s silence in honour of Sayipov during their congress on 8 December.