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Uzbekistan4 July 2005

Thugs beat up pregnant journalist

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the beating up by thugs of Lobar Qaynarova, correspondent for Ozodlik Radio (Radio Free Europe) and also pregnant, and called on the authorities to curb a spate of attacks on independent journalists.

"We demand that interior minister Zokirjon Almatov take action to find and punish those responsible and that the government efficiently protects journalists and press freedom," its said.

Qaynarova, who is the radio’s correspondent in the Syrdarya region, was attacked in Gulistan (120 km south of Tashkent) by three thugs, two of them women, as she was going home by taxi on 1 July after covering a trial of several youths for stealing fertiliser.

They set upon her as she got out of the taxi, beat her unconscious and made off with diskettes and audio tapes of interviews with human rights campaigners and opposition activists.

Neighbours summoned help and the journalist, who was three months pregnant, was rushed to hospital with a broken nose and many injuries around her waist and to her face.

She said she had been anonymously warned a few days earlier by a secret service agent not to report on the trial or interview human rights activists. She had also had anonymous threats telling her not to get "mixed up in politics."

Police in her neighbourhood opened an enquiry and the Tashkent office of Ozodlik Radio called in writing on the interior and foreign ministries and the Syrdarya regional government to take urgent steps to find and punish those responsible.

It was the second time in several days that a Radio Free Europe journalist in Uzbekistan had been obstructed for work reasons. Police arrested the radio’s correspondent in Andijan, Gafur Yuldashev, on 26 June and interrogated him for nearly four hours before confiscating his dictaphone.

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