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Slain Uzbek Journalist Buried in Kyrgyzstan


Alisher Saipov, a freelance journalist who provided in-depth reports for VOA's Uzbek Service, has been buried less than 24 hours after his murder Wednesday evening in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh. VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky has details and also a remembrance based on his meeting with Saipov just two months ago.

An unknown gunman hit Alisher Saipov with three bullets fired at close range outside his office in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh. The press secretary of the Osh District Police Department, Zamir Sydykov, told VOA that Saipov died on the spot, having been shot twice in the back of the head and once in the right thigh at about six in the evening local time. Three bullet shells were found at the scene.

Alisher Saipov leaves a widow and a daughter less than three months old.

The governor of Osh Province, Zhantoro Satybaldiev, has taken personal charge of the investigation, and local journalists are demanding action.

Police spokesman Sydykov says about 15 journalists came to the National Security Service office after Saipov's funeral Thursday afternoon to ask authorities to solve the crime.

Sydykov notes that he knew the victim personally from his professional dealings with the press. He says Saipov was a very educated and modern colleague. He knew how to work with everyone. The police had no reservations about his work.

Sydykov says the investigation will include an inquiry into people who may have had such reservations.

Saipov was an ethnic Uzbek with Kyrgyz citizenship who was a well-known critic of Uzbekistan's authoritarian ruler, Islam Karimov.

The Associated Press quotes an exiled Uzbek opposition activist as saying Saipov was involved in organizing meetings in connection with Uzbekistan's presidential election in December. President Karimov has been in power for 18 years and shows no signs of stepping down.

In August, Saipov helped this reporter produce a television feature about Uzbekistan's strict border controls, which separate Uzbeks in that country from Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan. In an interview he gave at the time, Saipov shared his perceptions of liberty both countries.

He said one can notice negative tendencies in Kyrgyzstan to limit freedom of speech, to violate human rights and to torture prisoners. Nonetheless, he said, Kyrgyzstan still has freedom of speech also democratic freedoms, which he said should be used to the fullest extent so that Kyrgyzstan does not become Uzbekistan.

Despite Uzbekistan's authoritarian rule, Saipov told VOA its leaders have been unable to cut off the cross-border flow of ideas.

"Freedom does not seem to recognize borders," he said. "Uzbek authorities try to control the border with the help of their Kyrgyz and Tajik colleagues. Nonetheless, ideas here spread."

Saipov was aware of the dangers he faced as a journalist who dared to question authoritarian rulers. Therefore, his death at the age of 26 is a testament to his courage and total commitment to liberty.

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