28 October 2008

Still No Justice in Murder of Uzbek Journalist

One year ago, Alisher Saipov, a 26-year-old Uzbek journalist who was a correspondent for the Voice of America and contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was shot to death by an unidentified gunman near his office in the southern Kyrgyzstan town of Osh. Despite pledges by the Kyrgyz authorities to bring Saipov's killers to justice, the case remains unsolved.

Edward Kaufman, member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal government agency that oversees VOA and RFE/RL, said: “One year later, and the shots that killed Alisher Saipov still echo with his young family and among journalists worldwide who seek to freely report the facts. The government of Kyrgyzstan must pursue Saipov's killers, following a path to justice no matter where it leads.”

Reporters Without Borders said: “The lack of any substantial progress is disgraceful. So far neither perpetrators nor masterminds have been identified. Such a degree of impunity is an outrage. The investigators should seriously consider the possibility that the murder was linked to Saipov’s journalistic work instead of trying to explain it away in terms of his support for the Uzbek exile opposition party Erk or the contacts he may have had with banned religious groups.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists has also spoken out: “Solving the contract-style murder of Alisher Saipov is a litmus test for [President Kurmanbek] Bakiyev's administration. He came to power in 2005 with the promise of democratic reform and rule of law. The smear of impunity casts doubt on that commitment, shaking the public's trust in the government's ability to protect its citizens. Kyrgyz authorities should work to restore that trust by mounting a transparent and effective investigation into Saipov's murder. They owe this to Avaz Saipov and all of us who remember Alisher for his courageous journalism.”

Reporters Without Borders recently ranked Uzbekistan 162nd out of 173 countries when it comes to freedom of the press, with Kyrgzstan ranked 111th.

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