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Newspapers seized and journalists assaulted during opposition demonstration

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - Five journalists were injured, another two were threatened with physical violence, journalists' equipment was broken and newspapers were seized during a nine-day opposition demonstration in the capital city, Bishkek.

On 14 April 2007, Aziz Egemberdiyev, a reporter for the news agency 24.kg, Sanzhar Hamidov and Bobozhon Tuganov, a camera crew for the Russian television channel NTV, and Nina Gorshkova, a photojournalist for the newspaper "Slovo Kyrgyzstana", were injured by protesters while covering an opposition demonstration in Bishkek's central square.

Egemberdiyev was taken to hospital with a brain concussion, head trauma and facial bruises, while Hamidov and Tuganov were slightly injured.

Another group of unknown men prevented journalist Nina Gorshkova from covering the demonstration and tried to break her camera.

On 13 April, unidentified demonstrators approached NTS TV journalists and began pushing them, threatening physical violence and forcing the journalists to leave the scene. NTS journalist Elnura Bekbasarov reported: "I am confident that the attackers were not those who took part in the opposition demonstration."

On 12 April, the NTS camera crew was attacked by demonstrators, who damaged their equipment.

On 19 April, the Office of the Prosecutor General issued an order to seize all copies of the newspapers "Agym" and "Kyrgyz Ruhu", the local AKI-Press news agency reported. The following day, about 30 State National Security Committee and police officers seized copies of the newspapers and copied the electronic files in their printing office.

Local media outlets reported that copies of two other newspapers, "Apta" and "Aikyn", were also seized.

A few local media advocacy organisations later issued a statement, addressed to the OSCE Secretary General, calling on him to deal with the problem and planned to hold a press conference to address these issues.

The Prosecutor General claimed that he did not know anything about the seizure of the newspapers, saying "If the investigators seized the newspapers, it means that they had reasonable grounds to do so."

A number of organisations, including For International Tolerance, a public association called "Journalists," the Institute of Media Representatives and the Internews Network - Kyrgyzstan, expressed alarm over the increasing number of cases of violence against journalists carrying out their work. They said there were many more cases than formally registered because most journalists were not willing to report them to the authorities, convinced that the authorities would not take measures against the perpetrators.

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