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Uzbek Journalist On Hunger Strike Against Censorship Denied Treatment

Saodat Omonova
Saodat Omonova
TASHKENT -- One of two journalists on a hunger strike to protest media censorship in Uzbekistan has been denied treatment at a Tashkent hospital, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Saodat Omonova called for an ambulance on June 30 after having severe stomach pains. She was taken to a local hospital but was denied treatment because officials said she is not officially registered as a resident in the Uzbek capital.

Dr. Shukurullo Sirodjev, who examined the striking Omonova and Malohat Eshonqulova, told RFE/RL that they should both be hospitalized.

On June 27, Media Workers' Day in Uzbekistan, the two journalists were detained after trying to launch their hunger strike outside President Islam Karimov's residence in Tashkent.

A Tashkent district court fined them 2.94 million soms (about $1,500) after their detention for holding an unauthorized protest. They were appealing to Karimov for a meeting to discuss media censorship at the state television station Yoshlar (Youth), where they had worked.

In December, Omonova and Eshonqulova were fired from the station 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 legal.

The women have filed an appeal against that verdict.

They are using a Twitter account (@Malohat_Saodat) to inform people about the progress of their hunger strike.

On Twitter, people challenged the hunger-striking journalists about their long loyalty to President Karimov, who they criticized for "censorship and corruption."

"Our trust in the president became embedded into our minds for over 20 years and it's hard to change it in a few days," the two women wrote on Twitter. "Probably this is our blessing or maybe this is our curse, but we still hope that our message will reach President Karimov."

Omonova told RFE/RL that as a journalist who broadcasted state propaganda for several years as an employee of state television, her "eyes are open now and [she] sees how ordinary people [in Uzbekistan] are suffering."