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Andrei Klimonov

Andrei Klimonov, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, was found dead in his home in the northwestern town of Aqtobe today.

His family says he died in his sleep.

Klimonov, 36, joined RFE/RL last year as a freelance correspondent for the Kazakh Service's website. He had previously worked for other independent Kazakh media organizations, including the "Aqtobe Times" newspaper in western Kazakhstan.

Klimonov had endured repeated threats and incidents of harassment in the last several years of his life because of his work as a journalist and human rights activist.

In one instance, he suffered a concussion after being beaten by five unknown attackers following anonymous threats urging him to stop writing newspaper articles.

Last year, Klimonov was severely injured when he jumped from his second-floor apartment after receiving a threatening telephone call concerning his wife and son, who had gone for a walk.

Believing they were in danger in the courtyard below, he jumped, fracturing his spine. His wife and son were not harmed in the incident.

A report is expected soon on the exact cause of Klimonov's death.

Leyla Yunus
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the Azerbaijani government to immediately withdraw its libel case against rights activist Leyla Yunus.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has accused Yunus of "insulting" the ministry and causing "moral damage" to the reputation of the police after giving an interview in which she questioned the conduct of a kidnapping trial in which a defendant had alleged police involvement.

Yunus' trial is scheduled to begin in Baku on January 23.

In a statement, Rachel Denber, director of HRW's Europe and Central Asia division, said "a judgment against Yunus would set a terrible precedent for freedom of expression in Azerbaijan."

"When allegations are made of official involvement in kidnapping, the public has an interest in knowing what has been done to investigate," said Denber. "The Azerbaijani government should focus on ensuring that justice is done instead of targeting activists for their legitimate criticism."

Activists and media watchdog groups say the Yunus case is but one more example of the Azerbaijani government cracking down on free expression.

On January 1, the government banned foreign radio on local frequencies, a move that ended the broadcasts of RFE/RL, the BBC, and Voice of America.

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About This Blog

"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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RFE/RL journalists take risks, face threats, and make sacrifices every day in an effort to gather the news. Our "Journalists In Trouble" page recognizes their courage and conviction, and documents the high price that many have paid simply for doing their jobs. More

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