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Uzbekistan1 August 2006

Journalists fired for freelancing for independent or foreign media

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the dismissal of a total six journalists from state-owned news media for freelancing for independent or foreign media. Those fired include Jamilya Aipova and Olga Fazylova of the government newspaper Pravda Vostoka.

Aipova and Fazylova had freelanced for Tribune (www.tribune-uz.info), an independent website to which access was blocked by local ISPs in July. They were fired after Pravda Vostoka editor Alisher Usmanov was summoned by a presidential aide during the first half of July and was told he had to get rid of some of his journalists.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that the aide told Usmanov that “some of the newspaper’s employees are politically not very reliable” and that he could either fire them or stand down as editor.

“This is not the first time that journalists with the government press have been fired for contributing to independent news media,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on President Islam Karimov to take the necessary steps to guarantee the right to information in Uzbekistan and to put an end to this policy of reprisals.”

Atabek Amankulov, a correspondent with the Uzbekistan National News Agency (www.uza.uz), was also fired in July. According to the head of the agency’s international section, Anvar Babayev, it was because he did some freelance work for the Tashkent office of Radio Free Europe/Liberty, which was closed down by the government in January. He was not been able to find another job.

Journalists fired for working for independent or foreign news media are put on a blacklist that is circulated to all the Uzbek news media, both state and privately-owned. As a result, most of them are unable to get any other work and are forced to leave the country.




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