Dissident Uzbek reporter shot dead

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The Independent Online

A prominent journalist with close ties to the opposition in neighbouring tightly controlled Uzbekistan has been shot to death in Kyrgyzstan, an official said.

A gunman fired three shots at Alisher Saipov at close range as he was leaving his office on Wednesday in the city of Osh, Osh regional Governor Jantoro Satybaldiyev said. Saipov died on the spot, he said.

A media freedom watchdog at the Vienna based Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) condemned the killing. Miklos Haraszti, media freedom representative for the OSCE, called Saipov one of Kyrgyzstan's most-promising young journalists, and said he was shocked and saddened by his brutal assassination.

Saipov, 26, was a founder of the Uzbek-language Siyosat, or Politics, newspaper that focused on political affairs in Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyzstan's Osh region borders Uzbekistan and has a large ethnic Uzbek population. The political climate in Kyrgyzstan is much more liberal than in Uzbekistan, whose long-ruling President Islam Karimov is seen as one of the most repressive in ex-Soviet Central Asia.

Shakhida Yakup, an exiled Uzbek opposition activist, said in the past two weeks Saipov had been involved in organising Uzbek activists' meetings in Osh. The meetings were about a presidential election in Uzbekistan scheduled for December. Karimov, who has been in power for 18 years, is expected to seek another seven-year term.

Saipov helped many Uzbek refugees who fled to southern Kyrgyzstan in the aftermath of a May 2005 bloody crackdown on an uprising in the Uzbek city of Andijan.

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