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Aibek Kulchumanov was working on an investigative report for RFE/RL at the time of the attack.

BISHKEK -- Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for a thorough investigation of an attack on RFE/RL correspondent Aibek Kulchumanov, who was assaulted in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh and later accused of hurting a local man with his drone.

"We condemn any attack against journalists. There must be no obstacles for their activities, especially there must be no violence and threats against them. It is very important that journalists could carry out their works in a safe environment. Because freedom of speech is fundamental for any democratic society," Laura Mills, a researcher with HRW's Health and Human Rights Division, told RFE/RL on October 1.

Several young men attacked Kulchumanov on September 28 and forcibly took his recording equipment, a remote control for a drone, his mobile phone, personal documents, and the keys to his home and car in Bishkek. Kulchumanov was working on an investigative report for RFE/RL at the time of the attack.

Kulchumanov said his attackers asked him who ordered investigative reports into a former deputy Customs Service chief, Raiymbek Matraimov which had recently appeared on RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service website.

Kulchumanov said local police had launched a probe into what they called a robbery.

Police said later that three men, whom they refused to identify, brought the items taken from Kulchumanov to the police station.

Kulchumanov said, however, that RFE/RL equipment taken from him had yet to be returned.

On September 30, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, called on the Kyrgyz authorities "to thoroughly investigate" the attack against Kulchumanov.

"Such an attack and intimidation against a media worker is unacceptable," Desir wrote on Twitter.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has also called for an investigation and the "immediate" release of Kulchumanov's equipment, noting in a tweet that the Kyrgyz Service hasd faced weeks of a "pressure campaign" in the country.

On October 1, police in Osh summoned Kulchumanov for questioning regarding a lawsuit filed by an unidentified local resident who claims he was injured by Kulchumanov's drone, which he said fell on him.

Reporters from multiple news outlets protest in Sarajevo on September 30 after a group of hooligans attacked the editorial board of Radio Sarajevo on September 27.

SARAJEVO -- Dozens of journalists have marched through Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital to protest violence against media workers, after suspected soccer fans broke into a radio station in Sarajevo and forced staff to withdraw a news item from its website.

Some 100 protesters gathered on September 30 outside the offices of the FK Sarajevo soccer club and then marched through the city center, demanding better protection and tougher penalties for attacks on the press.

Being a journalist in Bosnia is "very hard" and "is getting harder every year," said Faruk Vele, a member of the editorial board of the news portal.

Vele said the country's institutions were failing to protect journalists from attacks.

Police have detained two people over the September 27 incident when assailants who said they were soccer fans threatened the staff of Radio Sarajevo until they removed the news that a Sarajevo fan had received five years in prison in Belarus for cocaine possession.

Describing the incident as "an actual hostage situation," Radio Sarajevo said that faced with death threats, the editor was forced to remove the news item.

FK Sarajevo has condemned the incident.

In a joint statement on September 30, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, and the head of the OSCE mission to Bosnia, Kathleen Kavalec, called on the authorities to better protect journalists.

"Safety of journalists is one of the most important prerequisites of media freedom, which is a key pillar of our democratic systems," Desir said.

Kavalec pointed out that the number of attacks on journalists so far this year "seems to have reached an alarming level."

Earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo said the "outrageous attack" on Radio Sarajevo was "unacceptable,"

"We strongly defend the right of journalists to report the news without the fear of reprisal. When journalists are silenced, society suffers," it tweeted.

Bosnia is ranked in 63rd out of 180 countries in the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders' 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

With reporting by AP and AFP

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About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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