Kyrgyzstan’s security services claim RFE/RL reporters took money for investigation

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The accusation was leveled at RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, by a chief investigator at the State Committee for National Security, Sagynbek Samidin uulu, during a parliamentary hearing on June 2 on the murder of Aierken Saimaiti, an ethnic Uyghur national of China who was shot dead in Istanbul last year.


According to Eurasianet, Saimaiti was a key source in a series of media investigations, including one run by Radio Azattyk in May 2019 in which he contended that he was the conduit through which Kyrgyzstan’s influential Matraimov family had funneled hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country. After his death, he surfaced as the key source in a milestone media investigation, overseen by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, or OCCRP, and compiled in cooperation with Azattyk and Bishkek-based news website Kloop, in which more detailed allegations were made.


Attention since the appearance of those reports has reportedly centered on Rayimbek Matraimov, a former senior customs official accused by his detractors of presiding over a web of corruption. Matraimov has denied these accusations. The wave of public indignation nonetheless prompted the authorities into pledging an investigation.


Samidin uulu said that Saimaiti had allegedly paid Radio Azattyk journalists US$100,000 to conduct their investigation. While claiming to have evidence, he made no attempt to produce it.


RFE/RL President Jamie Fly dismissed the allegations as “the latest attempt in a longstanding campaign of retaliation against journalists by corrupt individuals seeking to protect their wealth and power.”


“We condemn such efforts to distort the truth, and once again call on Kyrgyz authorities to ensure that those responsible for threatening and attempting to intimidate the journalists related to this story are held accountable for their actions,” he said.


Source: Asia Plus