Independent journalist attacked in Tashkent

New York, October 12, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attack on Thursday on Sid Yanyshev, a Tashkent-based correspondent for the London-
based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and contributor to the popular Central Asia news Web site Ferghana. Two men who identified themselves as National Security agents beat him shortly after his return from a reporting trip to the city of Chirchik, where he was covering protests over bread shortages. There have been sporadic protests in the wake of a recent hike in the cost of wheat in Central Asia.

Yanyshev traveled to Chirchik, 32 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of Tashkent, on Thursday morning, he told CPJ. After he’d returned to the capital that same day, while waiting for a taxi to take him home at around 7 p.m., he said the two men approached him. They said they were with the National Security Service, asked Yanyshev if he was a journalist, and demanded to see his personal documents. When Yanyshev asked to see their identification, too, the men began to hit him. He was not critically hurt in the attack.

“I fell down and they continued beating me, saying I should stop reporting,” Yanyshev told CPJ. His mobile phone, containing his footage from the Chirchik protests and reporting contacts, disappeared after the attack; Yahyshev said he believes the agents took it.

“We denounce the attack on Sid Yanyshev, one of the few remaining independent journalists in Uzbekistan,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on the authorities to thoroughly investigate the attack and punish those responsible. Uzbekistan has become a black hole for news and information because of President Islam Karimov’s regime of intolerance to press freedom.”

Yanyshev, 35, covers social and political issues in Uzbekistan for IWPR, Ferghana, and a variety of Russia-based Central Asia news Web sites. He also contributes reporting to the online magazine Oasis, a project of the Moscow-based media watchdog Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. Yanyshev reports on issues of poverty, human rights violations, and the persecution of independent journalists in Uzbekistan.

Earlier this year, Yanyshev was summoned to the Transport Prosecutor’s Office in Tashkent as a witness in the case of then-imprisoned Uzbek independent journalist and human rights activist Umida Niyazova. When he showed up at the prosecutor’s office in March, investigators showed Yanyshev copies of his bank statements and interrogated him about the sources of his income.

Following the May 2005 in the eastern city of Andijan, when security troops opened fire against anti-government protesters and killed hundreds of civilians, authoritarian President Islam Karimov and his government launched a relentless crackdown on independent journalists, human rights activists, and other dissenters. Dozens of journalists have been driven into exile and authorities—both in Tashkent and the regions—have pressed hard on the handful of remaining independent journalists. Those who contribute to international publications are at a special risk as the government tries to cover-up the truth about Andijan. Karimov, to this day, refuses an independent investigation into the May 2005 events.