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Uzbekistan28 June 2005

Crackdown persists against independent journalists

A crackdown against independent journalists has persisted since the 13 May bloody events in Andijan, said Reporters Without Borders urging the interior minister to put an end to the abuse.

(JPEG) Uzbek police arrested Gafur Yuldachev, of Radio Free Europe in Andijan on 26 June 2005 and questioned him for about four hours before seizing his dictaphone. Independent journalist Ulugbek Khaidarov (photo) was severely beaten by thugs in Karshi as he was on his way to visit a colleague Tulkin Karaiev.

"Brutality against journalists continues since the events in Andijan on 13 May," the organisation said. "We urge the Interior Minister, Zakir Almatov, to launch an impartial investigation into the abuse of power by police officers against independent journalists. President Islam Karimov should also be concerned about this policy of systematic repression that seriously damages press freedom in his country."

The Radio Free Europe correspondent was due to interview two representatives of banned opposition party Erk (Freedom) Isroil Holdorov and Sadirohun Sufiev in the Yangibozor bazaar in Andijan on 26 June when he was arrested by eight police officers who took him to the interior ministry office in the city. They searched and then questioned him several times over a four-hour period. They threatened him with immediate imprisonment and confiscated his dictaphone before finally releasing him.

Khaidarov was attacked in the evening of 26 June in Karshi, some 200 metres form the home of Tulkin Karaev, an independent journalist placed under house arrest by the local authorities. Two thugs accosted him hit and begun beating him about the head. After he fell to the ground, they kicked him saying, "What are you doing in Karshi? Get back where you came from!" Passers-by, who were alerted by the noise, drove off the attackers. Khaidarov returned to his home in Jizzakh the following day. "I have no intention of making a complaint because it would be a waste of time and energy," he told Reporters Without Borders.

It was the second time the journalist, who contributes to two opposition websites, and, had been physically attacked in two months. He was severely beaten by an unidentified assailant overnight on 23-24 April 2005, in Jizzakh. He was taken to hospital with a broken collarbone and two broken ribs.

Local governor, Ubaidulla Yamankulov, called him on the phone on 20 April telling him to stop writing his articles and threatening to "settle scores with him".

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