Police in Kyrgyzstan said they were holding four suspects on Tuesday (14 January) over the beating of a journalist known for investigating corruption, an incident that triggered international condemnation.
Bolot Temirov, 40, was attacked outside his media outlet’s office in the capital Bishkek last Thursday and had his telephone stolen.
The interior ministry said it was holding four residents of the southern Jalal-Abad region over the attack, which was condemned by the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Temirov — editor-in-chief of investigative website Factcheck.kg – was photographed with injuries to his face and said he damaged a tooth in the attack.
He called the incident “an attempt to frighten” him.
The US embassy in Bishkek called for a “prompt investigation”, adding: “Press can only be free when journalists are able to work without intimidation and threats.”
— eng24.kg (@Eng24Kg) January 10, 2020
The OSCE’s media freedom chief Harlem Desir also condemned the attack and said that “no intimidation of journalists should be tolerated”.
Factcheck.kg was briefly disabled by a cyberattack last month after it published an article about the expensive tastes of the wife of Rayimbek Matraimov, a powerful former official.
Matraimov has been the target of two anti-corruption rallies and is widely believed to be one of the ex-Soviet republic’s most influential men, despite no longer holding an official position. He is at the centre of media claims that hundreds of millions of dollars were spirited out of the country by an “underground cargo empire” and funnelled into foreign companies.
Matraimov has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged.
Last month the partner of top anti-corruption campaigner Shirin Aitmatova was detained in what she claimed was an attempt to halt her activism.
Two Kyrgyz presidents have been overthrown — in 2005 and 2010 – following mass protests driven in part by anger over corruption and nepotism.
The impoverished landlocked Muslim-majority country of six million people hosts a Russian airbase and looks to China for investments and credit.
#Kyrgyzstan authorities should conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the assault of journalist Bolot Temirov and ensure that reporters can cover corruption allegations without fearing for their safety.https://t.co/nQ3Hvy7o1i
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) January 9, 2020