Pregnant Kyrgyz Journalist Faces Charges, Says She Is Being Framed

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BISHKEK — Police in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, have released journalist Sanrabia Satybaldieva, who is pregnant with her second child, after detaining her and a cameraman overnight on an extortion charge she says is an attempt to frame her.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement on November 4 that Satybaldieva and and cameraman Kalys Ashirbaev, who work for the news website, are suspected of extorting $2,000 from lawmakers, allegedly blackmailing them with unspecified compromising audio recorded in 2016-17.

Satybaldieva, whose reporting has been critical of the government, said that she is being “framed” by the chief of the State Committee of National Security (UKMK), Kamchybek Tashiev, and his brother Shairbek.

“I cannot say everything now as the investigation is under way. They all colluded and framed me. I will reveal everything after I am released.,” Satybaldieva said.

Doctors rushed to see Satybaldieva at a police station overnight after she felt unwell.

Abdirasulova added that Satybaldieva was rushed to hospital from a police station overnight after she felt unwell.

Despite the doctors warning that she should stay under their care or risk losing her child, police took her back into custody. They were later forced again to visit her after her condition worsened a second time, Abdirasulova said.

Satybaldieva said on November 4 that she had been released so she could go to a hospital for treatment. She was ordered not to leave Bishkek until the investigations against her are over. Ashirbaev’s pretrial restrictions will be decided on by a court on November 5.

Kyrgyz Ombudswoman Atyr Abdrakhmatova told RFE/RL that she met with Satybaldieva earlier in the day and stressed that the journalists’ rights were violated by police.

“Despite doctors’ orders to take her to a hospital, Sanrabia was brought to a detention center, where she fainted. Doctors came twice and were surprised that she was not hospitalized. It is a cruel and inhumane attitude. The investigator who detained her must be held accountable,” Abdrakhmatova said.

Rights groups have warned recently that Kyrgyz authorities have increased efforts to control and censor mass media amid a broader crackdown on freedom of expression and civil society.

The Kyrgyz government on October 26 blocked the website of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, after the broadcaster refused to take down a video, produced by Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

The video reported on clashes at the border with Tajikistan. Officials claimed the segment “predominantly” took the position of the Tajik side, an accusation RFE/RL rejects.

The government has since frozen Radio Azattyk’s bank account without explanation.

The detainment of Satybaldieva and Ashirbaev came the same day that another Kyrgyz journalist, Semetei Talas-uulu, was placed under house arrest on an extremism charge that he and his supporters reject as politically motivated.

In September, a court in Bishkek convicted the director of the NEXT television channel, Taalaibek Duishembiev, and handed him a suspended three-year prison sentence over the airing of a report related to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Duishembiev has maintained his innocence.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.