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Staff at Index.hu decided to quit after management rejected a demand to reinstate the website's editor, who was fired a few days earlier.

Several dozen staff members have quit Hungary’s most-read news website after its editor was fired earlier this week.

About 60 workers at the Index.hu website said on July 24 that they were stepping down in solidarity with fired editor Szabolcs Dull.

Index.hu has long been targeted by Hungary's authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, who has called it a "fake news factory."

The website’s advertising sales were recently taken over by pro-Orban businessman Miklos Vaszily, a development that was considered ominous for the website’s editorial independence.

Dull was fired on July 21 after a dispute between management and the editorial staff over a proposed reorganization of the newsroom.

Staff decided to quit after management rejected a demand to reinstate Dull.

Press freedoms have been in decline in Hungary since Orban returned to power in 2010.

In recent years, many independent news outlets have either gone out of business or have been bought up by Orban allies.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP
Azimjan Askarov appears in a Bishkek court in January 2017.

BISHKEK -- Azimjan Askarov, a well-known ethnic Uzbek human rights activist sentenced to life in prison on charges rights groups describe as trumped-up, has been transferred to a different Kyrgyz penitentiary amid reports about an abrupt worsening of his health.

The chairwoman of Kyrgyzstan's One World-Kyrgyzstan human rights organization, Tolekan Ismailova, told RFE/RL on July 24 that an ambulance brought Askarov to a detention center in the Central Asian state's capital, Bishkek, that is better equipped to administer medical services.

According to Ismailova, Askarov will be examined by the facility's medical personnel and a decision will be made if he is to stay at the detention center for further treatment or returned back to his cell in the detention center where he has served several years of his life sentence.

In recent days, Askarov's lawyer, Valeryan Vakhitov, and the human rights organization Front Line Defenders have raised concerns over Askarov's health, saying the 69-year-old activist is in very poor condition amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Kyrgyzstan.

Askarov, who also contributed to independent news websites, has been behind bars for almost a decade after a Kyrgyz court sentenced him to life in prison after finding him guilty of creating a mass disturbance and involvement in the murder of a police officer during deadly ethnic clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.

In May, Human Rights Watch said Askarov "suffers from cardiac and respiratory conditions and has not received appropriate medical attention in prison." It also warned that he was at high risk of contracting COVID-19, a disease that disproportionately affects older people and individuals with underlying illnesses.

Ismailova said at the time that it was "heartbreaking to see him -- at high risk due to his declining health and having endured torture -- losing hope for a fair trial and release."

More than 450 people, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, were killed and tens of thousands more were displaced during the violence.

The UN Human Rights Committee has found that Askarov was arbitrarily detained, denied a fair trial, and tortured, and ruled the activist should be released immediately and his conviction quashed.

However, Askarov's conviction was upheld after several appeals.

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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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