Crossroads Asia, Temirov Live Targeted With Media Raids in Kyrgyzstan

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Crossroads Asia | Politics | Central Asia, Temirov Live Targeted With Media Raids in Kyrgyzstan

The recent detention of journalists and raids on homes and offices mark a further expansion of the Kyrgyz government’s efforts to rein in the country’s media through overt pressure., Temirov Live Targeted With Media Raids in Kyrgyzstan
Credit: Catherine Putz

Over the course of two days, half a dozen journalists in Kyrgyzstan have been taken in for questioning, their offices or homes raided or sealed by the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) in what appears to be a concerted crackdown.

On January 15, the offices of, a leading local news agency, were raided by SCNS officers who took the agency’s General Director Asel Otorbaeva, as well as chief editors Anton Lymar and Makhinur Niyazova, away for questioning. Journalists witnessing the raid noted that security officials confiscated computers, laptops, printers, and other devices from the offices and then sealed the entrance.

As she was escorted from the building, Otorbaeva tried to make a statement noting that the search of the office had to do with a criminal case. As officers herded the two women into a waiting van, Niyazova speculated that the issues had to do with one of their publications, and Otorbaeva said it had to do with the war in Ukraine before the van door closed.

The SCNS issued a statement later in the day citing a probe on “propagating a war.” No other details were offered. The three journalists were released but ordered not to talk about the case.

On January 16, additional raids took place, and several current and former members of the Temirov Live investigative group and the Ait Ait Dese project were detained. At least 11 journalists were detained in 48 hours with the authorities citing alleged “calls for mass unrest” on the two platforms. The detained journalists include the director of Temirov Live Makhabat Tazhibek kyzy (also the wife of the group’s deported namesake and leader Bolot Temirov) and reporters Sapar Akunbekov, Azamat Ishenbekov, and Aike Beyshekeeva; as well as other journalists with current or former connections to the investigative group: Saypidin Sultanaliev (of, Aktilek Kaparov, Tynystan Asypbek (PolitKlinika), Maksat Tazhibek uulu, Joodar Buzumov, Zhumabek Turdaliev, and Akyl Orozbekov.

When Tazhibek kyzy was being taken out of the Temirov Live offices on January 16, she reportedly shouted that the search had to do with the journalists’ work regarding two people: head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Ulanbek Niyazbekov and parliamentary deputy Nadira Narmatova, infamous as the driving force behind Kyrgyzstan’s “foreign representatives” bill.

The Media Action Platform of Kyrgyzstan issued an appeal stating in part, “Bringing charges against journalists for calls for mass unrest and war propaganda not only lacks logic and facts, but also represents an absurd and harmful phenomenon.”

The appeal went on: “These accusations seem to be an attempt to intimidate and silence journalists and establish censorship in the country.”

Kyrgyzstan hosts the Central Asian region’s most vibrant media scene, but in recent years many of the country’s most prominent and independent outlets have faced increased pressure. While July 2023 saw a reprieve for the Kyrgyz Service of U.S.-funded RFE/RL, which had been blocked in October 2022 and ordered to close in April 2023, local media in the country have continued to face pressure. Kloop was targeted in August last year for publishing materials “aimed at sharply criticizing the policies of the current government” and then blocked in September. In 2022, Bolot Temirov was detained on drug charges, of which he was ultimately acquitted. Temirov was then re-arrested and deported to Russia on Kafkaesque charges that he used forged documents to acquire a Kyrgyz passport.

These two latest cases mark a further expansion of the Kyrgyz government’s efforts to rein in the country’s media through overt pressure.

U.N. Human Rights Office spokeswoman Liz Throssell issued a statement expressing deep concern about the developments in Kyrgyzstan. 

“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,” Throssel said. She also noted concerns about a draft law on mass media that is being considered by the Kyrgyz parliament, saying the bill “would restrict the right to freedom of expression which includes media freedom.”