WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 513 Part 1, October 26, 2007
LEADING JOURNALIST MURDERED IN SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN Alisher Saipov was a highly
respected journalist who made it his mission to write for Central Asian as well
as foreign readers. By Kumar Bekbolotov in Bishkek
EUS EASING OF UZBEK SANCTIONS ABSURD European foreign ministers accused of
placing energy interests over human rights. By Inga Sikorskaya in Bishkek
**** IWPR RESOURCES
WINNERS OF 2007 KURT SCHORK AWARDS ANNOUNCED Please go to
http://www.iwpr.net/kurtschork.html to find out more.
CROSS CAUCASUS JOURNALISM NETWORK. IWPR has launched the website of a unique
Caucasus-wide programme, funded by the EU and the Finnish government, forming a
network of more than 50 journalists from across the North and South Caucasus.
They are meeting and collaborating in all parts of the region over the next
three years. www.crosscaucasus.net
SAHAR JOURNALISTS ASSISTANCE FUND: IWPR is establishing a fund, in honour of
Sahar al-Haideri, to support journalist participants in its training and
reporting programmes around the world. The Sahar Journalists Assistance Fund
will be used to support local journalists in cases of exile or disability, or
to assist their families in case of death in service. To find out more or
donate please go to: http://www.iwpr.net/sahar.html
NEWS BRIEFING CENTRAL ASIA is a new concept in regional reporting, comprising
analysis and news behind the news in Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Available at: www.NBCentralAsia.net
REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA RSS: http://www.iwpr.net/en/rca/rss.xml
TURKMEN RADIO: INSIDE VIEW is an IWPR radio training and broadcast project for
Turkmenistan. View at: http://www.iwpr.net/?p=trk&s=p&o=-&apc_state=henh
RECEIVE FROM IWPR: Readers are urged to subscribe to IWPR's full range of free
electronic publications at:
GIVE TO IWPR: IWPR is wholly dependent upon grants and donations. For more
information about how you can support IWPR go to:
LEADING JOURNALIST MURDERED IN SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN
Alisher Saipov was a highly respected journalist who made it his mission to
write for Central Asian as well as foreign readers.
By Kumar Bekbolotov in Bishkek
There must be something deeply wrong with our society if the life of one of our
brightest, youngest journalists can be stolen away so easily.
When we heard the news that Alisher Saipov had been murdered in cold blood, our
initial reaction was not to believe it it just couldnt be him.
Alisher, who was 26, was a prominent journalist working in Osh in southern
Kyrgyzstan. He was known for his courageous first-hand reporting not only on
Kyrgyzstan but also on neighbouring Uzbekistan.
He was murdered on the evening of October 24 on the citys main thoroughfare,
Masaliev Street. Someone shot him three times with a pistol.
I met him two weeks ago in Bishkek, and he was proud to share his stories of
sleepless nights as he helped his wife take care of their two-month old
Alisher filed several excellent stories for IWPR in 2005 on developments in
southern Kyrgyzstan, and was recently a trainee and consultant at a workshop
for IWPRs News Briefing Central Asia news agency project.
He was a friend to IWPR and its Central Asia team, who looked up to him as a
model of journalistic grit and courage.
A long-term correspondent for the Uzbek services of Voice of America and Radio
Liberty (RFE/RL), he had earlier been editor-in-chief of two Osh newspapers,
and regional editor of the Fergana.ru news agency.
Most recently, he founded an Uzbek-language newspaper called Siyosat (Politics)
and was its chief editor.
We hope to win readers by providing objective information
the paper will
differ from others by providing balanced information and analysis, Alisher
said when he launched the paper earlier this year.
Siyosat soon became extremely popular not only in the Kyrgyz part of the
Ferghana Valley, but also in neighbouring regions of Uzbekistan. Alisher told
how Uzbeks of all kinds - traders and farmers - would cross the border into
Kyrgyzstan just to get their copy of Siyosat.
The last entry on the newspapers blog which he produced (at
http://siyosat.uzbek.kg) was headlined Bye, Bye, Bye. The piece was about a
poem in an Uzbekistan newspaper lauding the cotton harvest in Andijan, but the
title now looks like an ominous portent.
Alisher was young and full of ambitions, all cut short by his murder. An ethnic
Uzbek, he was a patriotic citizen of Kyrgyzstan and also of Central Asia as a
whole, not least in his reporting on Uzbekistan.
He set great store by the highest standards of journalism, and saw his mission
as being to provide information to the average person in the region.
Perhaps for that reason, the Central Asian internet space witnessed an
unprecedented smear campaign against him in recent months, with numerous
articles posted depicting Alisher as an enemy of Uzbekistan and urging the
Kyrgyz authorities to take action against him. Some of these postings were
anonymous; if they were signed, the likelihood is that pseudonyms were used.
Saipovs activities are directed against the constitutional foundations of
Uzbekistan, said one of these stories.
Another alleged that he had contacts with Islamic extremists and darkly hinted
at concerns for his future.
Earlier this month, Alisher told us that a Fergana Valley regional television
station in Uzbekistan had aired a programme attacking what it said was his
Whoever is behind this terrible murder, it crosses an important line it is
the first time a journalist has been killed in so brazen a fashion in
It is now incumbent on the Kyrgyz authorities to ensure that an investigation
takes place under proper supervision and that the culprits are identified and
Kumar Bekbolotov is IWPRs Central Asia Programme Director.
EUS EASING OF UZBEK SANCTIONS ABSURD
European foreign ministers accused of placing energy interests over human
By Inga Sikorskaya in Bishkek
Human rights activists in Uzbekistan and abroad have been left angry and
disappointed at the European Unions decision to relax sanctions against the
countrys government, in the face of strong evidence that the regime is as
oppressive as ever.
On October 15-16, EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg decided to suspend
visa restrictions against eight top Uzbek officials who are accused of playing
a part in the bloody suppression of a demonstration in the eastern city of
Andijan in May 2005.
While official figures say 189 people were killed and over 500 wounded when
Uzbek security forces opened fire on crowds of peaceful demonstrators in
central Andijan on May 13 that year, some human rights groups have calculated
that the figure is closer to 800.
In the wake of the uprising, the Uzbek authorities arrested anyone who they
thought was involved in the protest or who even witnessed it, before embarking
on a general crackdown on human rights activists and other dissenters across
the country, and driving out the few remaining foreign organisations involved
in civil-society, media development, and more innocuous cultural assistance
Civil society groups are angered at the EUs decision to lift almost all
sanctions against a country which they say continues to have one of the most
authoritarian regimes in the world.
Surat Ikramov, the head of the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights
Advocates of Uzbekistan, said relaxing sanctions was absurd because no
international investigation into Andijan is even on the horizon.
I think the EU should apply the kind of sanctions that any state would respond
to, he said.
As things stand, he said, the Uzbek authorities are very flexible they can
certainly agree to dialogue and negotiations, but they will not fulfill
The EU sanctions were imposed in November 2005, after President Islam Karimov's
government continued to refuse to allow an independent international inquiry
into the massacre, first requested by United Nations human rights commissioner
Louise Arbour and then by the US government.
The sanctions included a partial suspension of the Partnership and Cooperation
Agreement which governs EU-Uzbek relations; an embargo on EU sales of weapons
to Uzbekistan and a year-long visa ban on 12 top officials believed to have
played a role in the use of force against demonstrators.
Despite Tashkents continuing refusal to allow an investigation, and much
evidence suggesting there had been no substantive improvements to the human
rights situation, EU foreign ministers lifted visa restrictions against four of
the 12 officials on the travel blacklist when the sanctions came up for review
in May 2007.
Human rights groups monitoring the situation in Uzbekistan judged that the
already poor human rights situation deteriorated sharply after Andijan, and
showed no sign of improvement during the dialogue instituted with Tashkent
after the sanctions were prolonged in November 2006. (See IWPRs story
Should EU End Sanctions Against Uzbekistan? RCA No. 492, 11-May-07
Explaining its latest decision, the Council of the European Union said in a
press release that it remains seriously concerned about the human rights
situation in Uzbekistan and that the arms embargo and visa restrictions
therefore would remain in place for another 12 months. However, in order to
encourage[e] the Uzbek authorities to take positive steps to improve the human
rights situation, the visa restrictions were being suspended for six months.
In return, the Uzbek government has to make progress towards meeting a number
of benchmarks, which includes releasing human rights activists from prison,
allowing non-government organisations to operate freely, and giving access to
International Committee of the Red Cross visit detention centres.
The EU indicated that it had eased sanctions because of positive steps such
as the Uzbek governments increased willingness to engage in dialogue, the
holding of expert talks on Andijan, and the conditional release of human
rights defenders Umida Niazova and Gulbahor Turaeva, who were both imprisoned
earlier this year after flawed trials.
The eight listed Uzbek security officials are still held directly responsible
for indiscriminating and disproportionate use of force in Andijan and the
obstruction of an independent inquiry, according to the EU statement, but they
will now be free to travel to Europe for the next six months, and longer if the
EU judges that progress has been made.
The serving officials listed are National Security Service chief Rustam
Inoyatov; Ruslan Mirzoev, currently defence minister and formerly National
Security Council adviser; Major-General Vladimir Mamo, deputy commander of the
interior ministrys special forces; Colonel Gregory Pak, commander of the
ministrys rapid reaction forces; Colonel Valery Tajiev, head of a special
forces unit in the interior ministry; and Colonel Pavel Ergashev, who unlike
the others commanded an armed forces unit under the defence ministry.
Two retired officials feature on the list former interior minister Zokirjon
Almatov and his deputy at the time Tohir Mullajonov.
According to Human Rights Watch and the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, human rights advocates and thousands of people who were
imprisoned on charges of religious extremism are still languishing in Uzbek
prisons. Numerous reports over the years have documented flawed trials,
fabricated cases, and the frequent torture of detainees.
The argument being made is that with the Uzbek government angry, it is not
possible to discuss human rights, said Holly Cartner of Human Rights Watch.
But the point of the sanctions isnt empty dialogue - its to change behaviour
- and on that score Tashkent has only gone backwards, including by keeping 13
human rights defenders in custody.
One Tashkent-based political analyst said the easing of sanctions should be
seen not as a reward for past progress, but rather as an incentive for the
Uzbek government to do better from now on.
Its a kind of signal that they should correct the situation and think along
those lines. Europe is always open to dialogue and if Uzbekistan undertakes
actions that meet the requirements, then it can count on something [in
return], he said
Vitaly Ponomarev, a Central Asia expert with the Russian human rights group
Memorial, does not believe the EU decision was backed by such lofty motives.
Instead, he argues that Europes hunger for Central Asian energy is taking
precedence over human rights.
This is an attempt by some EU members to use the softening of sanctions to
expand their geopolitical presence, he told IWPR. So one can hardly expect to
see any positive effect in terms of an improvement in the human rights
The EU approved a new strategy for Central Asia in June. Developed under
Germany's presidency, it aims to build the EUs political presence and
influence in the region and seek access to energy resources.
Uzbekistan is a major natural gas producer, with the bulk of its exports going
to Russia, Europes major supplier.
Following the EU meeting, European Commissioner for External Relations Benita
Ferrero-Waldner confirmed that the sanctions were eased in the context of the
new approach to Central Asia.
I think we have to at least try
it's the most populous country [in the
region], it is a country in our Central Asian strategy; I don't think we should
just leave it out. I think we should engage with them and clearly try to work
step by step in order to improve the situation of human rights," she said, in
remarks quoted by RFE/RL.
Germany has used its EU presidency to lobby for sanctions to be lifted
altogether, although it was opposed by some other member governments. The
official German view of sanctions was apparent right from the start, when it
allowed Almatov to visit the country for medical treatment in November 2005.
Some analysts say EU sanctions have had no impact on the Uzbek government,
other than to provoke it into restricting the activities of international
organisations and foreign media while continuing to repress dissidents.
Akylbek Saliev, the director of the Bishkek-based Central Asian Institute for
Strategic Analysis and Prognosis said the visa ban and arms embargo looked
ridiculous and had no real impact on the authorities or the population.
This was because Uzbekistan sources most of its weapons in Russia, not Europe,
while the officials denied entry from Europe were not relevant to economic
deal-making, he said.
In Uzbekistan, a new round of mass arrests began last month, in what is being
portrayed as a counter-terrorism sweep. Local observers say many of the charges
are patently fabricated.
Karimovs government does not regard human rights as a priority. The
persecution and oppression continue, said an Uzbek journalist who asked to
remain anonymous. I harboured this last hope that EU sanctions would make the
authorities responsive on this issue. Im very unhappy about the lifting of
On the streets of Tashkent, many people appeared unaware of news that the
sanctions had been relaxed - the heavily-censored media meant they had simply
not heard about it.
One local man who did know about the sanctions said the decision to lift most
of them would not prompt the government to change its ways.
Removing barriers is no incentive, he said. If there is no barrier, then no
Uzbek official will have any fear, and they will be to conduct actions similar
to the one in Andijan again. Thats what we are afraid of.
Inga Sikorskaya is an IWPR editor in Bishkek.
REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a unique
insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local journalists,
the service publishes news and analysis from across Central Asia on a weekly
The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty, Bishkek,
Tashkent and London, which supports media development and encourages better
local and international understanding of the region.
IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund. The
service is published online in English and Russian.
The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the authors and
do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.
REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing Editor: Yigal
Chazan; Senior Editor: John MacLeod; Central Asia Editor: Saule
Mukhametrakhimova; Project Director: Kumar Bekbolotov.
IWPR Project Development and Support: Executive Director: Anthony Borden;
Strategy & Assessment Director: Alan Davis; Chief Programme Officer: Mike Day.
IWPR builds democracy at the frontlines of conflict and change through the
power of professional journalism. IWPR programs provide intensive hands-on
training, extensive reporting and publishing, and ambitious initiatives to
build the capacity of local media. Supporting peace-building, development and
the rule of law, IWPR gives responsible local media a voice.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7831 1030 Fax: +44 (0)20 7831 1050
For further details on this project and other information services and media
programmes, go to: www.iwpr.net
ISSN: 1477-7924 Copyright © 2007 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
If you wish to change your subscription details or unsubscribe please go to: