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Authorities at a penal colony in Kazakhstan have refused to let inmates' relatives see their loved ones following reports that the armed forces put down a prison riot.

Anxious relatives had gathered near the OV-156/3 prison in the eastern city of Oskemen, demanding access to the inmates to assuage fears they had been subjected to violence by the troops.

Prison officials told RFE/RL that the armed forces had been used on November 10 to "conduct routine checks (and) confiscate banned items, such as mobile phones and blades."

Officials told the relatives that day that two inmates had been hospitalized after they maimed themselves to protest the presence of the armed forces.

Kazakh inmates have rioted several times in recent years to protest jail conditions, sometimes maiming themselves to draw attention to their plight.

Blogger Mehman Huseynov

The OSCE representative on freedom of the media has called on authorities in Azerbaijan to stop their crackdown on independent media and rights activists.

Dunja Mijatovic said in a November 10 statement, "Practically all independent media representatives and media NGOs have been purposefully persecuted under various, often unfounded and disturbing charges."

Mijatovic raised the case of Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Huseynov, who was detained at the Baku airport earlier in the day and denied permission to leave his country to attend an international media conference sponsored by the OSCE in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Mijatovic had invited Huseynov to the conference.

Mijatovic also noted that Khadija Ismailova, a journalist for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, could not attend the conference due to travel restrictions imposed on her.

The OSCE media freedom representative said, "I repeat my call on the authorities in Azerbaijan to end this hostile attitude against free media."

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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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