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Uzbekistan7 March 2003

Radio Free Europe and Voice of America correspondents physically attacked in Tashkent

Reporters Without Borders voiced its outrage at the beatings inflicted today on Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty stringer Khusnudtin Kutbetdinov and Voice of America stringer Yussuf Rassulov in Tashkent by some 15 thugs. The attack came when they were covering the forced dispersion of women who had been protesting against the arrest of their relatives on charges of being Islamist militants. As well as attacking the reporters directly, the thugs encouraged passers-by to follow suit.

"The right to inform and be informed is the basis of press freedom, especially on matters affecting human rights such as the forced dispersion of peaceful demonstrators," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general said in a letter to interior minister Zokirjon Almatov. "It is unacceptable that journalists who were just doing their job were subjected to such violence in the presence of many onlookers and without the police intervening," Ménard added, calling for an investigation to identify and punish those responsible.

According to a report carried by the Uzbek-language service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, police were present during the attack but did not intervene. One of the assailants said he was acting on orders from the interior ministry. A spokesperson for the interior ministry denied that it was involved in the incident.

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