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RFE/RL Kyrgyz Investigative Journalist Wins Prize In Honor Of Late Colleague

Kyrgyzstan - RFE/RL investigative journalist Ydyrys Isakov (second from left) won the top prize in the Investigative Journalism Foundation in Kyrgyzstan’s annual prize dedicated to late RFE/RL colleague Ulanbek Egizbayev, whose image is displayed on the banner in the background.

Ydyrys Isakov, a freelance journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL’s) Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, has been awarded the 2019 Egizbayev Prize for Best Investigative Journalism by the Investigative Journalism Foundation in Kyrgyzstan for his video report titled “Osh Is Ruled By Bandits.”

Isakov received the award and $1,000 at a February 12 ceremony in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

“Osh Is Ruled By Bandits” is the first investigation in Kyrgyzstan into the alleged criminal activities of sports club owners and their members. Isakov spoke to several local business owners who say they have been attacked by sports club members trained in martial arts and sent by club owners to extort money and even take over small businesses by force.

The victims say they have yet to see justice, as many of the sports club owners are also powerful politicians who no one dares to accuse of wrongdoing.

The 28-minute video report was viewed more than 550,000 times on YouTube in both Kyrgyz and Russian. Following its release, the mayor of Osh held a special meeting to discuss the report’s findings and ways to fight extortion.

The same report won Isakov and the team of editors and producers second place for Best Coverage of Human Rights in Central Asia at a contest devoted to the 70th anniversary of The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights in December 2018.

Since joining Radio Azattyk in 2013, Isakov has uncovered government corruption in public construction projects, the public education system, and the electoral system. Before reporting for RFE/RL, he worked for the newspaper De Facto and the radio station Yntymak.

The Egizbayev Prize is named after late RFE/RL investigative journalist Ulanbek Egizbayev, who died suddenly last July, having drowned while on holiday at Kyrgyzstan’s Lake Issyk-Kul. The competition aims to raise interest in the development of investigative journalism in Kyrgyzstan and recognize reporting related to corruption in the country.

The Foundation for Investigative Journalism, which was established in September 2018 in Egizbaev’s name, supports initiatives by journalists to expose corruption in Kyrgyzstan. The organization is led by former Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva and a board of prominent journalists and civil rights activists.

Radio Azattyk is a leading, multimedia source of independent news and information in Kyrgyzstan, reporting on topics that other media ignore, including minority rights, government corruption, and Islamic radicalism.