(Washington, DC--March 10, 2003) Top executives at both Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America deplored the March 7 beatings of two journalists working for their Uzbek broadcast services, allegedly on orders of Uzbek Interior Ministry officials. They called for a thorough investigation into the events surrounding the beatings of RFE/RL correspondent Khusniddin Qutbiddinov and VOA correspondent Yusuf Rasulov, during which recording equipment was also taken.
"I am disgusted by this attack on working journalists who were doing their jobs," RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine said. "Attacks of this sort fly in the face of Uzbek government commitments to the U.S. to foster political and civil reform."
VOA Director David Jackson said: "This attack, as well as the failure of the police to protect our reporters, is a blatant violation of the standards of a free and democratic society."
Qutbiddinov and Rasulov were assaulted on March 7 while covering a protest by a group of about 40 women at a Tashkent market, Western news agencies reported. The two journalists, who had interviewed some of the protesters calling for the resignation of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, said police looked on and failed to intervene when they were attacked by about 20 people. One of the attackers later admitted that the beatings were ordered by the Anti-Corruption Department of the Uzbek Interior Ministry. An Interior Ministry spokesperson denied that police officers had been involved in the attack.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private, international communications service to Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe; the Caucasus; and Central and Southwestern Asia funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.