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State weekly reporter attacked, beaten in Osh

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, November 3, 2009 - Police in Kyrgyzstan should investigate work-related motives in a weekend assault that left Kubanychbek Zholdoshev, a reporter with the government weekly Osh Shamy, with a concussion and broken ribs, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Three assailants beat Zholdoshev as he was returning home from dinner in the southern city of Osh on Sunday night, The Associated Press reported. The attackers did not take any belongings. Zholdoshev remained hospitalized today.

Turgunbai Aldakulov, Osh Shamy's chief editor, told the AP that his colleague had recently received threats. Almaz Ismanov, a local analyst for the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, told CPJ that Zholdoshev has been threatened in connection with an article detailing protests at Osh State University. Students protested tuition increases, the quality of education, and alleged corruption at the university, Ismanov said. He said the weekly also announced Saturday that it was preparing reports on prostitution and abuses in the construction industry.

Osh police said that Zholdoshev was attacked as he was returning home from dinner with friends at a local restaurant, according to the independent news agency Aki-Press. Zholdoshev reportedly hailed a taxi, but was left stranded when traffic police stopped the cab and questioned the driver. The attack occurred as the journalist, on foot, was resuming his way home, police said, according to Aki-Press.

Osh police suggested the journalist had been drinking and had run afoul of street thugs, according to Aki-Press. Melisbek Myrzakmatov, Osh mayor, reprimanded police for making the assertion, and said the assault should be thoroughly investigated, Aki-Press reported. Myrzakmatov said he believed the attack was related to Zholdoshev's work, the independent news agency 24.kg reported.

"Kubanychbek Zholdoshev had already been threatened for his work before being beaten senseless by three attackers who did not rob him," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "The police should not jump to conclusions about motive but investigate all leads and bring those responsible for this assault to justice. Independent, critical journalism is already in short enough supply in Kyrgyzstan without reporters being attacked with impunity."

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