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RFE/RL Deplores Attack Against Reporter, Calls For End To Harassment In Uzbekistan

(Washington, DC — July 5, 2005) RFE/RL’s reporter in Gulistan, Uzbekistan (120 km south of the capital Tashkent), Ms. Lobar Qaynarova, remains in the hospital with severe injuries to her face and abdomen, as well as bruises to much of her body, which she sustained during a nearly three-hour beating by attackers in the early evening of Friday, July 1, 2005.

RFE/RL, Inc. President Thomas A. Dine, deploring the attack against Qaynarova, called on the Uzbek government to fully investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime. “This shocking act of violence against Lobar Qaynarova underscores the fact that she, like other reporters courageous enough to practice honest journalism in a corrupt autocracy like Uzbekistan, are heroes,” Dine said, “Government authorities must not try to hamper the investigation of this criminal assault, and we expect the attackers to be brought to justice.”

Qaynarova was attacked by a man and two women inside the stairwell of her apartment upon returning from covering a local trial of youths charged with theft. The attackers continued to beat her while dragging her out of her apartment building and pushing her into a waiting “Moskvich” van, where they continued to beat her while driving around from approximately 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm local time. The assailants threw her out of the van with her clothing and purse in front of her home, but kept her recording equipment and disks of the trial proceedings.

Qaynarova has told local police who questioned her at the hospital that she recognized one of her attackers as the ex-wife of her husband. Local police today found Qaynarova’s recorder, but not the discs, and say they “are learning” the case. There appears to be no criminal investigation at the moment.

Yesterday, Svetlana Artykova, the spokesperson for Uzbek Prosecutor General Rashid Kadirov in Tashkent, denied that Qaynorova had been severely injured and falsely reported that Qaynorova had not been hospitalized.

In recent weeks, Qaynarova had been interviewing human rights activists throughout the Syrdarya and Jizzah regions who have reported coming under intense government harassment. Before the Friday attack, she had been recently threatened several times by phone for “putting her nose into politics.” Gulistan is the capital of Syrdarya region.

This is the second time in the last week that RFE/RL journalists in Uzbekistan have been harassed. Police arrested Gafur Yuldashev, RFE/RL’s reporter in Andijan, on June 26, 2005 and interrogated him for nearly four hours and confiscated his recording equipment before releasing him.