Today is Thanksgiving, but not in Kyrgyzstan. There are no big tables of food and overstuffed bellies—this is one of the poorest countries in Asia. No one is counting their blessings because actually most people had more freedom before the latest regime, which has adopted Russia's media laws and even managed to make them stricter.
Bolot Temirov, above, is one of the most famous journalists in this country. Earlier this year, police tried to set him up with a planted bag of cannabis (still highly illegal here.) They charged him with using false documents to apply for a Kyrgyz passport. (Bolot is Kyrgyz). He also has a Russian passport because that's where the went to university.
He seemed to get out of all that mess but then one court appealed the decision of another court, and it spelled a dangerous situation for Bolot. "The prosecutor wants to send me to prison for seven years or I leave the country," he told me. The night before he was due to appear in court, he texted me to say "I don't think they are taking me to jail." And they didn't. But they continued the hearing to yesterday and that's when everything changed.
Bolot, 43, was dragged from court by police, and flown to Moscow. He has a wife and an 11-year-old son here. He has a team of reporters here. According to Bolot's lawyer quoted in one of the local media sites, Bolot's expulsion is forever.
A native of Kyrgyzstan is deported to Russia.
Fulbright in Central Asia
From March, 2022 to January of 2023, I was a Fulbright Scholar with the U.S. State Department in post-Soviet Central Asia. My previous Fulbright was in Ukraine. For the past six years, I have reported on journalists from post-Soviet countries who have experienced retaliation for reporting the truth.