The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was shocked and outraged to hear the news that our good friend Alisher Saipov, editor of the Uzbek newspaper Siyosat, was murdered on October 24 following a smear campaign directed against him that has continued even after his death. We send our condolences to the family and colleagues of this beloved young man.
Alisher Saipov established himself as one of the best reporters in Central Asia. As founder and editor of the newspaper Siyosat, which NED was proud to support, he was able to reach a broad readership that has little access to independent reporting on topics that include human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, the manipulation of the upcoming presidential election there, and the criminal activities of Uzbek security services operating across the border in Kyrgyzstan. Because of his reporting of such abuses, many friends and colleagues were concerned about his safety during the period leading up to Alisher’s murder, with attacks against him on Uzbek web pages and surveillance of his office.
After his death, an October 30 press release of the Interior Ministry of Kyrgyzstan, tried to blacken Alisher’s reputation by linking his name to Islamic extremism, a crude attempt to divert attention from the real issue, which is the threat he was under from those who objected to his reporting. In fact, Alisher Saipov’s record of professionalism and courage speaks for itself. He was a bright and brave young man, who exemplified hope for the future and was a source of pride and hope for the Uzbek and Kyrgyz people.
The same is true of the other journalists associated with Siyosat, whose safety may also be at risk. Since the murder, the computers, documentation, and other property of the Siyosat newspaper have been seized by the police. The staff of the newspaper has been subjected to daily rounds of questioning by police and security officials. Other journalists in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, who have attempted to report about this case have also been denounced and harassed by the police.
Kyrgyzstan seeks to be seen as an island of freedom in Central Asia. If the government wishes to advance that image, it must distance itself from this repugnant smear campaign against Alisher, cease harassing the staff of Siyosat, and provide them and other independent journalists in Kyrgyzstan with the protection they need to continue their work. Not least, the authorities need to carry out a serious and impartial investigation of the murder of Alisher Saipov.