Attacker: ‘I will teach you how to write’

New York, April 26, 2005—Independent Uzbek journalist Ulugbek Haydarov remained hospitalized today after a severe weekend beating at the doorstep of his home by an assailant who shouted, “I will teach you how to write,” according to local and international press reports.

Haydarov suffered a broken collarbone and multiple bruises in the assault reported at 10 p.m. Saturday in the city of Jizzakh, the regional capital of Jizzakh Province, about 100 miles southwest of Tashkent, press reports said. Police are investigating, the Jizzakh Interior Ministry said.

“We condemn this brutal attack on our colleague Ulugbek Haydarov, and call on Uzbek authorities to find and punish those responsible,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Haydarov, 42, had written recent articles about the regional government’s farm policies. His stories criticized Jizzakh authorities for allegedly depriving farmers of the best land and appropriating harvested crops, among other things. Tensions between farmers and Gov. Ubaidullah Yamankulov’s administration escalated this year and resulted in anti-government protests, press reports said.

The attack comes at a time of growing unease among independent Uzbek journalists, who have expressed broad concerns about alleged anti-press activities by the government. The government has said the concerns are groundless.

Russian-language Web sites outside of Uzbekistan began reporting in March that Uzbek authorities planned a crackdown against independent journalists, opposition activists, and human rights leaders. According to those reports, the Interior Ministry compiled a “black list” of 65 journalists and activists.

The reports prompted a group of Uzbek journalists to write to Interior Minister Zakir Almatov, according to local reports and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). Deputy Interior Minister Alisher Sarafutdinov, who met with journalists on April 15, denied that the ministry had ever compiled a list and said it had no plans to persecute journalists, IWPR reported.

But Uzbek authorities have taken action against some journalists. This month, Tashkent police charged Sobirdjon Yakubov, a reporter for the state-run weekly Hurriyat, with “undermining the constitutional order of Uzbekistan,” an offense that carries up to 20 years in prison. Colleagues believe that he is being targeted for his political and religious beliefs. [ Read more on Yakubov’s case.]

In December, independent journalist Jamshid Karimov was beaten in Jizzakh after contributing articles critical of local authorities to IWPR, The Associated Press reported.