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Uzbekistan / Turkmenistan12 September 2007

Sad anniversary for media in Central Asia

Today is a sad anniversary for the media and journalists in Central Asia as it was exactly a year ago that it emerged that Ogulsapar Muradova had died as result of mistreatment in a prison in Turkmenistan and Jamshid Karimov was reported missing in the central city of Jizzak in Uzbekistan, resurfacing two weeks later in a Samarkand psychiatric hospital to which he had been confined against his will.

“One year later, we continue to demand an official enquiry into the death of Muradova, a human rights activist and Radio Free Europe correspondent, while she was being held in a top-security prison,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“Arrested in June 2006 along with two colleagues, Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khajiyev, and convicted of illegal possession of ammunition in a sham trial, Muradova probably died as a result of blows to the head she received while in prison,” the press freedom organisation continued. “All three helped prepared a report for foreign journalists. We have no news about Muradova’s two colleagues and we fear for their survival.”

Reporters Without Borders also continues to demand the release of Karimov, an independent journalist who is the nephew of President Islam Karimov. “Punitive psychiatric confinement is an archaic and inhuman measure,” the organisation said. “Treating a journalist in this manner is a terrible human rights violation.”

Two weeks after he disappeared in Jizzak, his home town, the judicial authorities announced that an order had been issued confining him to a psychiatric hospital in Samarkand for six months. The order was later renewed for another six-month period, although his doctors said at the time he was “stable, in good health, intelligent and educated.”

In a message recently smuggled out of the hospital, he reported that his health was declining, apparently because of the drugs and other treatment to which he is being subjected.

The press freedom situation in Central Asia is alarming. Uzbekistan was ranked 158th out of 168 countries in the 2006 Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index. Turkmenistan was ranked 167th.

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