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Kyrgyz Medical Academy Scandal Widens After Staff Jostle RFE/RL Journalists

Ashiraaly Zurdinov, rector of the Kyrgyz medical academy, says he was simply following orders from the Ministry of Education.
Ashiraaly Zurdinov, rector of the Kyrgyz medical academy, says he was simply following orders from the Ministry of Education.

The Kyrgyz government is investigating after a group of journalists was jostled by staff at a state medical academy that has become embroiled in a growing corruption scandal.

The camera crew of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service was confronted by a group of angry teachers and the rector's chief of staff after entering the academy on February 17. RFE/RL was there to interview the rector, Ashiraaly Zurdinov, as part of an investigative report on allegations of corruption against the academy.

In the dust-up that followed, one cameraman was punched twice in the ribs. The three other journalists were forcefully shoved outside by staff members and a security guard.

Part of the incident was caught on video by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service:

The dust-up is the latest development in a case that has rumbled on since 2012, when academy officials were first investigated for alleged corruption. Kyrgyz media reports have claimed that the academy unlawfully accepted and handed out government grants to ineligible students.

Zurdinov told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on January 12 that he was simply following orders from the Ministry of Education.

The original investigation was never completed. A special commission was formed last month to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by academy officials. The commission was supposed to report back with its findings on February 15 but has failed to do so.

A special investigation by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service in December found widespread wrongdoing. RFE/RL obtained documents showing students had been accepted to study at the university despite low test results. RFE/RL also obtained evidence that showed former Education Minister Kanat Sadykov had signed two orders that admitted 56 ineligible students into the academy. Six of those students were also given government grants to study free at the academy.

The office of Prime Minister Joomart Otorbaev said on February 18 that he was studying the incident involving the RFE/RL journalists. Education Minister Elvira Sarieva said the harsh treatment of the journalists and the interference in their work by academy staff was unacceptable.

On the evening of the incident, Sarieva summoned Zurdinov to provide an explanation about the behavior of his staff. She said action would be taken against Zurdinov if his staff was found guilty.

The deputy education minister resigned on February 17, without explanation.

Written by Frud Bezhan, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service
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    RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

    RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service is an award-winning, multimedia source of independent news and informed debate, covering major stories and underreported topics, including women, minority rights, high-level corruption, and religious radicalism.

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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is the regional desk editor for Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2012, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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