Culture officials in Kyrgyzstan have suspended a respected singing teacher at the Kyrgyz National Conservatory over leaked footage purporting to show her engaged in intimate relations.
The scandal flared when local news agencies this week received a letter from a person posing as the teacher’s colleague. The author of the note claimed that Marina Shipulina had filmed herself while having sex and that she then posted the footage on Russian pornographic sites.
“Does the dean of the vocal department, Marina Shipulina, have the right to teach singing to the future patriots of our country if … she likes to film herself in homemade porn. Maybe she should think about entering the acting profession,” the author of the letter wrote.
In a news conference on January 23, Shipulina staunchly denied the veracity of the footage or that she distributed it, however. She and her colleagues say that the person behind the sex tape spread it among students and colleagues using popular messaging apps.
The letter to the media was signed off by somebody posing as another employee of the Kyrgyz National Conservatory, Vitaly Lynev. But when Lynev was contacted by the media, he denied having anything to do with the letter and said it had been sent from an email account that did not belong to him.
The sender of the letter also claimed to have submitted the purportedly offending material to the speaker in parliament and the president.
Shipulina has reported the incident to police and blamed the distribution of the film on her aggrieved ex-boyfriend.
“All these photographs and allegations are lies and slander. These photos and videos have been concocted with the use of special computer programs. This is the personal revenge of a person with whom I broke up. It is somebody who took a break-up badly,” Shipulina said.
Shipulina said that the man seeking to smear her name was purposely exploiting patriotic sentiments to turn officials against her.
“I don’t know what will happen now, but I am really appealing to the public to come out in defense of my dignity and honor,” she said.
Views are divided, however.
“It was the right decision [to suspend her]. She should be fired too. It is simply that her students have seen these images. She is already psychologically in no position to teach people,” businessman Mirbek Mamatkasym wrote in a Facebook comment.
Those who have come to Shipulina’s defense argue it is the management at her conservatory who are at fault.
“The fact that the management at the conservatory and at the Culture Ministry have suspended an employee on the basis of unverified video footage is grounds for suspending all of them instead,” another Facebook user, Aziza Moidunova, noted.
While Shipulina’s fellow workers rallied to her support, the conservatory is conducting an internal investigation.
The person responsible for distributing the video in the first place theoretically faces a fine of between around $292 and $440, but there is no indication yet that police intend to pursue the case.