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Uzbekistan Closes Media Outlets

The government of Uzbekistan has denied re-accreditation to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty or R-F-E/R-L. As a result, the independent U.S-government-funded broadcaster will be forced to close its news bureau in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.

The acting president of R-F-E/R-L, Jeff Trimble, said his organization will continue to report accurately and objectively about events in Uzbekistan. "This unwarranted action by Uzbek authorities," he said, "further erodes the already dismal state of free speech in Uzbekistan and is yet another attack by the [president Islam] Karimov government on the basic human rights of the Uzbek people."

Conditions for journalists in Uzbekistan have gotten worse since last May, when the government repression in Andijan began. According to human rights groups, government forces shot and killed hundreds of demonstrators in one of the worst massacres in recent memory.

R-F-E-/R-L correspondent Nosir Zokir was one of the first journalists on the scene in Andijan. He was sentenced to six months in prison for his reporting on events preceding the massacre. At least nine other R-F-E/R-L correspondents received threatening telephone calls and were questioned by Uzbek security personnel.

Other prominent media organizations have been forced to withdraw correspondents from Uzbekistan for security reasons. In October, the B-B-C announced that it was closing its Tashkent bureau because of the harassment of -- and lack of adequate security protection for -- its staff. At least seven B-B-C journalists have fled or been forced to leave Uzbekistan.

Correspondents from the London-based Instituted for War and Peace Reporting have also been harassed. The institute's Uzbek-language website was blocked and contributors were forced to flee the country.

President Karimov's government may be clamping down on press freedom out of fear about democratic developments in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and elsewhere. But the lesson of history is clear: freedom cannot be denied forever. That is why the United States, said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, "continues to hope that the government of Uzbekistan will turn back from its current course and make a strategic choice in favor of reform."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.