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Uzbekistan14 November 2005

Opposition online journalist assaulted

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemned an assault on independent journalist Aleksey Volosevich, which it said added to “an already shocking situation”.

The journalist and correspondent for pro-opposition online news site, was beaten, daubed with paint and insulted by a gang of five men on 9 November 2005.

“Intimidation has become common currency in Uzbekistan and brutality against independent journalists has escalated since the events in Andijan”, the worldwide press freedom organisation.

“This latest incident is a perfect example and shows that the Uzbek authorities are ready to do anything to silence those who want to reveal the truth about the 13 May 2005 uprising,” it added.

Volosevich received an anonymous telephone call on 9 November from someone who asked to meet him to give him some interesting information about the events in Andijan.

As the journalist left his apartment to go to the meeting, five men pounced on him, threw him to the ground, beat him and then covered him in black, red and green paint. One of them shouted “You won’t betray your mother country again!”

The five assailants also daubed anti-Semitic insults in the corridor leading to the journalist’s apartment. Among them were, “Here lives the corrupt journalist” and “The Jew who knows nothing about Islam”.

Volosevich is one of the rare journalists who stayed in Andijan throughout the bloody events of 13 May. He was targeted in an article in the weekly Mokhiyat on 3 June in which he was portrayed as a hooligan.

The journalist was convinced that the assault was linked to his coverage, carried by, describing killings of civilians by Uzbek armed forces. He also said that he believed it linked to his coverage of the trial and articles about the persecution of opposition political activists, such as the leaders of “Solnechnaya Koalitsya” and the unregistered opposition party “Ozod Dekhkonlar”. In particular Volosevich pointed the finger at the Uzbek secret services whom he accused of organising his beating.

The secret services on 10 November accused him of staging the attack himself so as to help his case for political exile abroad.

Since the May uprising, the Uzbek independent press has suffered serious harassment. At least five journalists have been beaten up, four have been imprisoned, two of whom remain behind bars.

The BBC has had to close its offices as has the agency Internews. Seven journalists, six of them Uzbek, have been forced to leave the country and two of them have obtained refugee status abroad. Two reporters were sentenced and then amnestied. Dozens of others have been harassed and intimidated. In addition, the foreign media have been accused of complicity in stoking up the Andijan revolt.

The 15 defendants on trial in connecting with the uprising were on 14 November found guilty by the Uzbek Supreme Court and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 20 years.

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