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Uzbek Journalists Fined For Protesting Censorship

TV journalists Saodat Omonova (left) and Malohat Eshonqulova in Tashkent in April 2011
TV journalists Saodat Omonova (left) and Malohat Eshonqulova in Tashkent in April 2011
TASHKENT -- Two Uzbek journalists have been temporarily detained and fined after trying to begin a hunger strike outside the presidential palace in the capital to protest media censorship, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The detentions and punishment came as Uzbekistan officially marked Day of Media Workers on June 27.

A Tashkent district court fined Malohat Eshonqulova and Saodat Omonova 2.94 million soms (about $1,500) after their detention for holding an unauthorized protest earlier in the day.

Eshonqulova and Omonova were fired in December from the state television channel Yoshlar (Youth), three days after staging a protest on Tashkent's main square against media censorship.

They filed a lawsuit against the management of Yoshlar, but on May 31 a district court for civil cases ruled in favor of the state TV channel, saying that the dismissal of the two journalists was done legally. The women have filed an appeal against that verdict.

Eshonqulova told RFE/RL that since May 2 they have addressed 56 letters to Uzbek President Islam Karimov detailing censorship at Yoshlar and requesting a meeting with him.

She said on June 27 that the she and Omonova held up placards during their protest the same day that read, "Dear Islam Karimov, please grant us an audience," and, "We declare a hunger strike."

Eshonqulova said that after two minutes they were approached by four men who told them to get into a car that took them to the Yakkasaroy police department in Tashkent.

She said they were forced to write an explanation of their actions for the police before being taken to a court and fined.