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Hikmatulloh Sayfullohzoda (file photo)
DUSHANBE -- A Tajik journalists' organization has awarded Hikmatulloh Sayfullohzoda a special prize for "journalistic bravery" on World Press Freedom Day, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The Media-Alliance gave the award to Sayfullohzoda, editor in chief of the weekly "Najot," founded by the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, on May 3.

Sayfullohzoda was beaten by unknown attackers on February 8 and spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from his injuries. No suspects have been arrested in his case.

A special award from the Media-Alliance was given to Ramziya Mirzobekova, a correspondent for the independent weekly "Asia Plus" who is being sued by Deputy Interior Minister Anvar Taghoymurodov for defamation.

In a show of support for Mirzobekova, the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe chose her to attend a World Press Freedom Day event in New York on May 3. World Press Freedom Day is sponsored by UNESCO, the UN's cultural organization.

In statement released on Press Freedom Day, U.S. Ambassador Ken Gross said Washington is concerned by the continued pressure on Tajik journalists and said the United States hopes the "Tajik government will recognize that the independent media plays a vital role in a healthy, democratic society."

Meanwhile, Mansur Sayfiddinov, media adviser to Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, said the government rejects the recently released report by Freedom House that describes Tajikistan's media environment as "not free."

Sayfiddinov told RFE/RL that the several independent media outlets that exist in the country are greater in number than the official press outlets and said they are free to criticize the government.

But Tajik journalists say independent media suffered a big setback in recent months after officials banned a number of newspapers and websites for three months due to "security reasons."
Interfax correspondent Jyldyz Bekbaeva is recovering in an Osh hospital.
OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz officials in the southern city of Osh are investigating the beating of a journalist working for the Russian news agency Interfax, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Jyldyz Bekbaeva was attacked by four assailants on the evening of May 1. She was hospitalized with numerous bruises, a concussion, and other wounds. No valuables were taken.

Bekbaeva told RFE/RL that two of the attackers were women. She declined to comment on the possible motive for the attack.

Bekbaeva had recently written about security in the country and problems faced by people living along the Uzbek border.

She also had begun an investigation on a book that was banned by Kyrgyz officials, "The Hour Of The Jackal," about the deadly unrest in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions last year that led to some 400 deaths.

Officials involved in the investigation say it is unclear if the attack is connected with Bekbaeva's professional activities.

Read more in Kyrgyz here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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