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Friday, December 2, 2011
Global Toolbox

Honoring slain Kyrgyz journalists

By Bruce Swaffield

There are myriad monuments in Bishkek commemorating all sorts of people: dancers, soldiers, politicians, poets, common laborers, even a 7-foot, 5-inch man.

In the entire capital of Kyrgyzstan, however, no statue is more important to me than the one of Gennady Pavlyuk. He was a journalist who was murdered by three men on Oct. 25, 2009. They tossed him from a high-rise in Almaty, Kazakhstan, with his legs and hands tied. Pavlyuk was 51.

Colleagues and friends gathered recently to pay tribute to Pavlyuk as well as slain newspaper editor Alisher Saipov, who had been shot to death outside his office on Oct. 24, 2007.

According to Radio Free Europe (RFE), “Dozens of local journalists, human rights activists, parliament deputies and public figures brought flowers and lit candles to commemorate Saipov and Pavlyuk, whose murders in 2007 and 2009 shook Kyrgyz society.”

The ceremony took place in front of the bronze statue of Pavlyuk that was erected last year. In his left hand, the reporter holds a tape recorder; his other hand grasps the strap to a backpack full of notepads.

The three people who killed Pavlyuk were found guilty in mid-October; they received sentences of 10, 11 and 17 years. RFE reported that, “Pavlyuk's relatives and colleagues in Kyrgyzstan have alleged that his murder was politically motivated as he was working with the opposition against then-President Kurmabnek Bakiev and his regime. He had also received many personal threats in the period before he was killed.

“He founded the White Steamer newspaper and website. He also wrote for the newspaper Vecherny Bishkek (Evening Bishkek) and the Russian weekly Argumenty i Fakty (Arguments and Facts).”

Saipov, editor-in-chief of Siyosat (Politics) and a reporter for Voice of America, was gunned down in his hometown of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. He was only 26.

Describing Saipov “as one of the most outspoken journalists in central Asia,” the BBC added that, “He was passionate about telling the story of one of the world's most repressive states.

“He wrote extensively about torture in Uzbek President Islam Karimov's prisons, about the clampdown on dissent and the plight of the Uzbek refugees living in Kyrgyzstan.

“He was also critical of the Kyrgyz authorities, which he said have allowed President Karimov's influence to spread beyond the borders of Uzbekistan.”

To date, no one has been charged with the shooting.

On Oct. 18, RFE reported on its website that, “A court in Kazakhstan recently jailed three men in connection with Pavlyuk's murder, but labeled the killing as an ordinary crime with no political motivation.”

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