In recent years, the Kyrgyz authorities have continuously suppressed independent media in an attempt to crack down on investigative journalism and consolidate the power of the government. As of 16 January 2024, eleven current and former employees of the respected investigative media outlet, Temirov Live, have been arrested on dubious charges.

Kyrgyzstan was one of the freest countries of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. However, since President Sadyr Japarov took office, the government has begun to enforce laws similar to those used by the Russian government to suppress freedom of expression, leading to the closure of some investigative outlets in the country.

Government pressure and harassment towards investigative journalists escalated on 16 January 2024, as the Kyrgyz law enforcement arrested and imprisoned Temirov Live’s employees, including past employees. The journalists were officially arrested on the suspicion of “inciting mass unrest”, which, if convicted, could lead to their imprisonment for years.

The detainees have been questioned by the Kyrgyz authorities about the whereabouts of Temirov Live’s founder, Bolot Temirov, who has been working in exile from an undisclosed location, as he was deprived of his citizenship and deported to Russia in 2022. Temirov and his team's work focus on uncovering corrupt behavior, with some of their findings involving President Sadyr himself and his inner circle, including his son and the security chief Kamchybek Tashiev.

Not enemies, just people who need to be taught a lesson

Several of the government’s officials have made public statements since the journalists’ arrests. Deputy Chairman of Kyrgyzstan’s Cabinet of Ministers, Edil Baisalov, described them as “a matter of discipline and re-education” or the president arguing that even freedom of speech needs to have some boundaries for security reasons.

Baisalov added in his statement that the detainees are not enemies of the state, just people who made a mistake, and it is not in the interest of anyone in the government to keep them in prison for years. Concerning the matter, he also emphasized in a written statement the need of education and reorientation in order to “build up the country and raise up the people” as society in Kyrgyzstan is supposedly undergoing a transformation.

Journalism without license affecting people’s mental health

Besides Temirov Live being harassed, there is another group of investigative journalists whose livelihood is being endangered by the government. On 9 February 2024, Kloop Media, a valued member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) [1], was ordered to be shut down due to alleged unlicensed journalism practice. According to a number of psychiatrists’ testimonies, the media group also affects people’s mental health by presenting negative information.

Kloop Media has been an OCCRP partner since 2017 in the region of Central Asia, and according to the organization, it stands behind impactful investigative work and exposure concerning organized crime and corruption in Kyrgyzstan and in the region. OCCRP Publisher Drew Sullivan called the allegations against Kloop media ”ludicrous” and “bizzare”, adding that it is in fact autocracy that is damaging people’s mental health.

Human rights groups calling for immediate release

In response to escalating pressure on independent media in Kyrgyzstan, eight human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, issued a joint statement calling on the government to drop the charges, free the detained journalists, return confiscated equipment and allow reporting without censorship. Human rights advocates are also reporting on several other investigative media outlets being harassed, including 24.KG, which, in particular, faced a raid on its newsroom by the Kyrgyz State Committee on National Security, confiscating equipment and detaining its director, Asel Otorbayeva, and its two chief editors, Makhinur Niyazova, and Anton Lymar. 

Temirov Live’s and 24.KG’s lawyers and representatives were denied access to the office during the raid and during their interrogation. The authorities initiated criminal cases against these outlets on charges of "war propaganda" and "calls to mass disorder," which carry penalties of heavy fines or imprisonment.

United Nations on freedom of expression

The UN has expressed concern about the increasing trend of governments using national security as a pretext to restrict freedom of expression. Speaking on 1 January 2024, the UN Human Rights Office spokesperson, Liz Throssell, emphasized the importance of freedom of expression as a fundamental human right, and the need to protect it, even in the face of security threats. She highlighted the potential for governments to use national security as a pretext to suppress dissent, and the importance of upholding international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Office called for the promotion of "a safe and enabling environment for all those exercising their right to freedom of expression, including journalists, civil society actors, human rights defenders and others who may be at risk."



[1] The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project is a global network of investigative journalists operating on six continents founded in 2006 and specializing in organized crime and corruption.


Comment by UN Human rights Office spokesperson Liz Throssell on freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan (2024, January 16). UN OHCHR. Available from

Independent Media Under Attack in Kyrgyzstan as Court Shuts Down OCCRP Member Center Kloop Media (2024, February 14). OCCRP. Available from

Kyrgyzstan: Authorities escalate crackdown on freedom of expression with raids on journalists’ offices and homes (2024, January 17). Amnesty International. Available from

Kyrgyzstan Authorities Renew Attack on Media (2022, October 28). Human Rights Watch. Available from

Kyrgyzstan: Immediately Cease Harassment of Independent Media (2024, January 16). Human Rights Watch. Available from

Lozovsky, I. (2024, March). With Journalists Behind Bars, Kyrgyzstan Enters New Era of Repression. OCCRP. Available from

Putz, C. (2024, February). Kyrgyz Media Under Increasing Pressure, But ‘Kloop Will Continue Its Work’. The Diplomat. Available from


Human Rights organizations expressed concerns about Kyrgyz authorities escalating pressure against journalists. Freedom of Speech Includes The Press (32451481695), author: Narih Lee, 21 January 2017, source: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0 DEED.