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DISSIDENT UZBEK REPORTER SHOT DEAD

A well-known journalist with close ties to the opposition in neighbouring Uzbekistan was shot dead last week in Kyrgyzstan, report the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), Adil Soz, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other press freedom groups and news reports.

Alisher Saipov, editor of the Uzbek-language newspaper "Siyosat" ("Politics") and contributor to several regional news outlets, was shot three times outside his office on 24 October in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, a city bordering Uzbekistan.

Saipov, an ethnic Uzbek, covered Uzbekistan's political and social issues for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Voice of America, and the Central Asian news website Ferghana. According to CJES, CPJ, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, he reported extensively on repression in Uzbekistan and often criticised Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

Saipov lived in and reported from Osh, just across the border from the Uzbek city of Andijan. He covered the plight of Uzbek refugees living in Kyrgyzstan, who fled after the Andijan massacre in May 2005 when government troops shot dead hundreds of civilians protesting President Karimov's regime.

Since the Andijan killings, Uzbekistan has moved aggressively to expel, drive into exile, imprison, and harass independent journalists, human rights defenders, opposition activists, representatives of international nongovernmental groups, and witnesses, says CPJ.

According to the BBC, the pages of "Siyosat" have recently been full of stories about the "climate of fear" ahead of this December's presidential vote, in which President Karimov will seek re-election.

Prior to his murder, Saipov had received anonymous threats warning him to stop his press and political activities, and he had been followed, says CPJ.

According to the BBC, after Saipov's murder, officers from the Kyrgyz security services seized computers, phones and files from Saipov's office that contained details of opposition figures and their plans to topple the Uzbek president. There are fears that intelligence-sharing between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan could put many people in Saipov's network of contacts in danger.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has taken direct oversight of the case.

"I welcome the fact that the President of Kyrgyzstan took the investigation under his auspices," says the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, Miklos Haraszti. "This loss comes at a time when the murders of Georgiy Gongadze, Elmar Huseynov, Anna Politkovskaya and Hrant Dink are still fresh in our minds."

Visit these links:
- CJES: http://tinyurl.com/2u4nxe
- Adil Soz: http://www.adilsoz.kz/
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/32m2xc
- Take Action - join CPJ in protesting Saipov's murder: http://www.cpj.org/protests/07ltrs/europe/kyrgyz25oct07pl.html
- Human Rights Watch: http://tinyurl.com/2mdcqu
- Freedom House: http://tinyurl.com/3xucry
- BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7061171.stm
- OSCE: http://www.osce.org/item/27572.html
- "Silenced: My brave friend who stood up to a tyrant": BBC bureau chief Natalia Antelava pays tribute to Saipov: http://tinyurl.com/2tytwc
(30 October 2007)

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