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Media Watchdog Alarmed By Interrogations Of Uzbek Journalists

Elsa Vidal: The EU "must [continue] to defend human rights."
The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it is alarmed by the recent interrogation of five independent journalists by Uzbek officials, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

RSF's Europe and former USSR desk chief Elsa Vidal told RFE/RL on January 13 that the organization is concerned the interrogations might be part of a new crackdown on journalists.

Vidal said RSF notes that the journalists who were interrogated and accused of cooperating with foreign media outlets are working in difficult conditions.

Vidal said the European Union "must [continue] to defend human rights." She added that Uzbek civil society is in great need of help.

On January 7, assistant Tashkent prosecutor Bahram Nurmatov "invited" several journalists who have worked or currently work for foreign media outlets to the Prosecutor-General's Office for meetings.

Invitees included Vasil Markov, Sid Yanishev (also known as Said Abdurakhimov), Marina Kozlova, and former RFE/RL correspondent Khusnitdin Kutbitdinov.

The next day, journalists Aleksei Volosevich and Andrei Kudryashov received similar invitations.

Yanishev and Kutbitdinov said they were told the questioning was initiated after National Security Service and Foreign Ministry files on the journalists' activities were sent to the prosecutor's office.

Both said they were questioned about their professional activities and foreign payments they received.

Nurmatov reportedly described some of their articles as "biased and tendentious" and as a "slight on the dignity of the Uzbek government."