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Uzbekistan26 April 2005

Interior minister asked to investigate beating of dissident journalist

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Reporters Without Borders wrote to Uzbek interior minister Zakir Almatov today saying it was appalled by the severe beating which independent journalist and human rights activist Ulugbek Khaidarov received on the night of 23 April.

"This violent attack on a dissident journalist is a flagrant violation of press freedom in Uzbekistan," the letter said. "We call on the authorities to quickly conduct a transparent, exhaustive and independent investigation so that an exemplary punishment may be given to the perpetrator of this cowardly attack and, if appropriate, the instigators. It is important that a climate of impunity should not take hold in the region."

(JPEG) Khaidarov (picture), who is also the local leader of the Uzbek human rights organization Ezgulik ("Kindness"), was hospitalized with a broke collarbone and two broken ribs immediately after being badly beaten by an unidentified individual near his home in Jizzakh, his birthplace.

He reported from his hospital bed that his assailant, while hitting him, said, "I will teach you how to write." The attack seems to have been directly linked to articles Khaidarov wrote jointly with Jamshid Karimov, the nephew of President Islam Karimov, which were published in February and March on the opposition websites www.fergana.ru and www.centrasia.ru .

The articles criticized the treatment which Jizzakh’s peasant farmers receive from the local authorities, who constantly harass them, seize their crops and keep the most fertile land for themselves. Last month, farmers in the region protested against the autocratic policies of Jizzakh governor Ubaidulla Yamankulov, demanding his resignation. A police station and two police cars were set on fire by members of the population.

For reporting this explosive situation in the region, Khaidarov was threatened with reprisals if he did not quickly leave Jizzakh. Pressure on him from the local authorities increased after he commented scathingly on Governor Yamankulov’s description of the United States as the "global policeman" at a press conference. His name also reportedly appeared on an alleged interior ministry blacklist circulating on the Internet.

The governor personally called on Khaidarov on 20 April to stop writing his articles, threatening to "sort him out."

Jamshid Karimov, the president’s nephew, also received a beating on 21 December after criticizing the Jizzakh authorities in an article for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, a London-based media watchdog.




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