Kyrgyz investigative journalist Bolot Temirov was arrested on Jan. 22, days after publishing exposes on allies of President Sadyr Zhaparov. He is facing drug charges, which he says are falsified.
The move is an alarming development for Kyrgyzstan, which has fared well in terms of free speech until recently, compared with nearby Central Asian dictatorships. Kyrgyzstan has retained a democratic political system and experienced three revolutions since 2005.
Temirov, head of the Temirov Live investigative show, was arrested by the police’s drug enforcement unit, Radio Azattyq - the Kazakh branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty - reported.
He is accused of forcing an unidentified girl to use drugs, said Aktiklek Kaparov, a journalist at Temirov Live. Temirov said during the arrest that he had been framed.
On Jan. 20, Temirov published an investigation exposing alleged corruption by relatives of Kamchybek Tashiyev, head of Kyrgyzstan’s State National Security Committee. A company owned by Tashiyev’s nephew allegedly earned 37 million Kyrgyzstani som ($460,000) as an intermediary for state oil and gas firm Kyrgyzneftegaz.
Kyrgyzstan’s kaktus.media news site cited Temirov attributing his arrest to his plans to publish another investigation on Tashiyev’s relatives.
In November, Temirov also published an expose of relatives of Kyrgyz President Zhaparov who received state jobs during his rule.
Meanwhile, Temirov said in October that he had been surveilled and wiretapped.
Temirov's wife Makhabbat, who is an executive at Temirov Live, told the Kyiv Independent that a hidden camera had been found in the apartment of one of Temirov Live's journalists.
She said that employees of the State National Security Committee had threatened to leak videos with details of the journalist's private life. The committee wanted the journalist to inform it about Temirov Live's investigations and specific journalists' functions in exchange for not publishing the videos, Makhabbat said.
The arrest happened right before Temirov was going to publish a video about the surveillance of his publication's journalists, Makhabbat added.
Another journalist at Temirov Live disappeared on Jan. 22, she said.
Makhabbat argued that the situation with the freedom of speech is worse under Zhaparov than under two previous presidents - Almazbek Atambayev and Soronbai Zheenbekov.