Ulanbek Egizbaev, 2018 winner
RFE/RL nominates Ulanbek Egizbaev posthumously for the 2018 David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award for his bravery and achievements in producing content of the highest quality and integrity to serve the public of Kyrgyzstan. It would be a fitting tribute to a journalist whose impactful journalism brought positive change to people’s lives.
Egizbaev was a dogged investigative journalist. According to RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service Director Venera Djumataeva, he had become “the biggest threat to all corrupt politicians in Kyrgyzstan.” Egizbaev reported on corruption cases in government, the Customs Service, various ministries, public-land distribution, and even a major corruption scheme at cemeteries. These investigations had major impact on Kyrgyz society, and prompted the Prosecutor General to investigate the high-level corruption that had led to these cases.
In addition, Egizbaev dedicated his life to being a voice for ordinary people — for those who could not stand up and speak up for themselves. He reported regularly and passionately about “unsung heroes” — be it a teacher in a desolate mountain village, a young woman overcoming the consequences of a botched operation that left her blind and in need of dialysis, or a young disabled teenager staying optimistic despite difficult challenges in his life. For this last story, Egizbaev and RFE/RL video producer Mykola Nemchenko won a 2016 Webby People’s Voice Award and traveled to New York to accept the prize.
Egizbaev was recently awarded a “Golden Pen” by a jury of veteran Kyrgyz journalists in recognition of his contributions to Kyrgyz journalism.