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Uzbek journalists imprisoned and on the run

Two imprisoned Kyrgz journalists have been charged with extremism, incitement to ethnic hatred, calls to mass disorder and complicity to murder, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Both men were arrested in the aftermath of ethnic violence that scorched southern Kyrgyzstan in May and June. According to Public Association "Journalists" (PAJ), many journalists have been targeted based on their ethnicity.

Ulugbek Abdusalomov, editor of the independent Uzbek-language newspaper "Diydor", is currently in the Jalal-Abad hospital undergoing treatment for a heart condition. He was charged on 10 August. Azimjon Askarov, head of the local human rights group Vozdukh and a contributor to the regional news website Voice of Freedom, was indicted on 12 August. He was reportedly beaten in custody.

The journalists are being held in retaliation for reporting on the humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in southern Kyrgyzstan. Abdusalomov's paper had covered social and political disadvantages facing the Uzbek community. Charges against Askarov are in reprisal for his role in documenting failures by police to stop human rights abuses in the southern village of Bazar-Korgon. For years he has reported on prison conditions and torture of police detainees in Jalal-Abad.

Several other attacks have also taken place. PAJ reports that Keremet TV cameraman Batyr Mamatzhanov was badly beaten by 30 men on 11 June during the unrest in Osh. He had been filming the unfolding turmoil of burning houses and stores. Other journalists were robbed, their homes set on fire, their cars seized and torched. The families of journalists also received threats.

Since June, two ethnic Uzbek journalists have gone into hiding, report local journalists. In mid-July Uzbek-language broadcaster Osh TV was raided and taken off the air, and its director was temporarily detained. Kyrgyz security service confiscated computers, hard drives, electronic documents and digital archives. The raid paralysed the broadcaster, which had just re-started its programming since the violence between the country's Kyrgyz majority and Uzbek minority.

Law enforcement agencies have been on the hunt for journalists and human rights activists, says the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES).

Related stories on
  • CPJ decries extremism charges against journalists

    Trumped-up charges of extremism against Ulugbek Abdusalomov, the editor of an independent newspaper, and Azimjon Askarov, a journalist and human rights defender, should be dropped immediately, CPJ said.

  • Two journalists detained as violence continues

    CPJ called on authorities to release Ulugbek Abdusalomov and Azimjon Askarov, and to ensure the safety of other journalists working in southern Kyrgyzstan.

  • Cameraman attacked in Osh

    Batyr Mamatzhanov remains in critical condition after suffering two broken ribs and a head injury.

  • Security agents raid television station, interrogate director

    The newsroom of the independent Uzbek-language broadcaster Osh TV in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh was raided by armed agents of the Kyrgyz security service.

  • Journalists, human rights defenders in danger

    CJES expressed concern over the safety of two journalists in Osh, while noting that another has fled the city with his family.

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