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Uzbekistan22 April 2004

A journalist threatened for his coverage of the fight against terrorism

Reporters Without Borders has condemned threats made against Tulkin Karaev, correspondent for the British Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran radio, by the national security services (SNB).

The journalist was warned that he would be accused of collaborating with extremists unless he changed his coverage of action taken by the authorities after bombings that shook the country at the end of March 2004.

"It is obvious that the government is using illegal methods to apply pressure to journalists who challenge censorship in Uzbekistan," said the international press freedom organisation.

"Karaev did no more than report the facts and accounts of violent methods used by the security forces against Moslems. This behaviour stresses the dangerous secrecy with which the Uzbek authorities surround both the fight against terrorism and terrorist acts themselves."

Karaev, who works in Kachdaria for the media training organisation IWPR and the Uzbek service of Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran radio, received a call on 15 April from a man calling himself "Guyam". He said he was a member of the SNB and threatened to take legal action against the journalist for collaborating with Islamist extremists unless he stopped putting out "false information".

At the beginning of April, Karaev did several reports on the Iranian radio about waves of arrests of Moslems accused of being fundamentalists and terrorists. He also reported accounts of illegal and violent methods used by the security forces, including allegedly planting drugs on an imam during his arrest.

A series of explosions, attacks and suicide bombings, followed by police operations in Tashkent and Bukhara, left 47 dead at the end of March. The government blamed radical Islamists for the attacks and in particular the group Hizb-ut Tahrir, which denied all involvement.

Many journalists complained of the paucity of information given by the authorities, which they said, was against public interest. Many people only heard about the 29 March explosions through Russian television channels and websites. Uzbek TV and radio either delayed broadcasting the news for several hours or in some cases gave no coverage at all.

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