Twelve years ago today, a 26-year-old journalist named Alisher Saipov was shot and killed in broad daylight in his hometown of Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
Alisher reported for Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on the social and political landscape of neighboring Uzbekistan. He frequently exposed corruption in the Uzbek government and human rights violations committed against Muslims in the Ferghana Valley.
By all accounts, he had established himself as one of the best reporters in the world covering the region, and his critical reports frequently angered Uzbekistan’s then-President Islam Karimov. He continued uncovering and reporting the truth despite a government-led smear campaign and repeated attempts to censor him. Shortly before his death, he mentioned being followed by Uzbek security services. Friends, colleagues and analysts believe his killing was a direct result of his reporting.
Alisher’s murder sent a clear message: journalists who write critically about the government will not be tolerated.
But what happened after his murder is equally chilling: nothing.
Alisher’s murderer has never been brought to justice, and the impunity with which the Uzbek government has operated only emboldens others in power to act out against journalists.
This summer officials in Kyrgyzstan announced they were reopening the case. USAGM welcomes the action, but only time will tell whether this investigation into Alisher’s murder will be more just and productive than the last.
You may have never heard of Alisher Saipov. But you, me and millions of people around the world benefit from journalists like him every day. His dedication to exposing corruption, reporting the facts and speaking truth to power are the embodiment of a free press. People like Alisher keep the powerful in check and give the powerless a voice.
On November 2, the world will mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. Alisher is among hundreds of journalists whose murders have never been solved. In fact, the Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that nine out of 10 journalist killers go unpunished.
It is a trend aimed at destroying a free press; a trend aimed at thwarting democracy and self-determination; a trend aimed at stifling human rights.
But most important, it is a trend that must be stopped.
Ending impunity for crimes against journalists requires action from inside and outside government. We must work with our civil society partners to raise these cases and to ensure they are not forgotten. And we must hold perpetrators of violence against journalists accountable.
USAGM stands with our allies to this end—for Alisher, for you and me, and for us all.