New York, March 10, 2003—Two Uzbek journalists working for U.S. government­funded radio stations were attacked by a group of men on Friday, March 7, while trying to cover an anti-government protest in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent.

According to local and international press reports, Khusnutddin Kutbiddinov, of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), and Yusuf Rasulov, with Voice of America, arrived at the Chorsu bazaar in the center of Tashkent on Friday morning to report on a group of about 40 women protesting the detention and torture of their sons and husbands on charges of religious extremism.

The journalists arrived at the bazaar after the police had dispersed the demonstrators and interviewed several women who had evaded arrest. They also briefly spoke to some police officers on the scene. As Kutbiddinov and Rasulov were leaving the area, a group of men attacked them.

“Around 20 men approached us and started hitting us,” Kutbiddinov told Agence France­Presse. “They pushed us to the ground and kicked us.” The men also stole the reporter’s bags, which contained the taped interviews with the women.

Despite pleas from the journalists for help, a group of police officers watched the attack and did nothing.

“We are outraged at this attack against our colleagues,” said Joel Simon, acting director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on President Islam Karimov to ensure that the perpetrators are investigated and prosecuted for this violent attack.”