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Uzbek Journalist Ends Hunger Strike After Hospitalization

Uzbek journalist Saodat Omonova
TASHKENT -- One of the two journalists protesting media censorship in Uzbekistan has ended her hunger strike after being forcibly hospitalized, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Saodat Omonova told RFE/RL she was taken to the hospital today, the 16th day of her hunger strike, after her health seriously deteriorated.

Her colleague, Malohat Eshonqulova, told RFE/RL she will continue her hunger strike.

Eshonqulova's husband, Avaz, told RFE/RL he was unable to persuade the two women to end their hunger strike but did manage to get his daughter, Zarnigor, to end it. She had joined the strike a few days ago.

Surat Ikramov, head of the Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan group, told RFE/RL he is shocked by the lack of interest in the journalists' protest.

He said he called the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan and was told they are aware of the journalists' protest and are willing to visit them. He said he was informed by the German and British embassies that the officials who monitor such issues are on vacation.

Omonova and Eshonqulova were detained in Tashkent on June 27 -- which is Media Workers' Day in Uzbekistan -- when they tried to start a hunger strike outside President Islam Karimov's residence.

They were arrested, and a Tashkent district court fined them 2.94 million soms (about $1,500) for holding an unauthorized protest.

The two women were seeking a meeting with Karimov to discuss media censorship at the Yoshlar (Youth) TV station, from which they were both dismissed in December, three days after staging a protest on Tashkent's main square against media censorship.

They filed a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal against the management of Yoshlar, but on May 31 a district court ruled in favor of the TV station, saying the women's dismissal was legal. They have appealed that verdict.

Eshonqulova told RFE/RL that since May 2 they have sent 56 letters to Karimov detailing examples of censorship at Yoshlar and requesting a meeting with him.

Read more in Uzbek here