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Independent
weekly shut down in Uzbekistan

Independent
weekly shut down in Uzbekistan

Hard-line Uzbek authorities closed down a popular Islam-oriented weekly, its editor said Monday, amid an ongoing crackdown on independent media in the authoritarian ex-Soviet state. The state media and communications agency shut down the independent Odam Orasida (Among the People) weekly, citing alleged breaches of the media law, editor Khairulla Khamidov told the Associated Press. But officials didn't explain the alleged breaches, he said.

The weekly--which discussed issues like infant mortality, homosexuality, and prostitution from the Muslim viewpoint--was launched in February. Its circulation in the capital, Tashkent, reached 24,000. The paper competed with government-supported newspapers or publications that limited their content to entertainment and celebrity gossip.

Uzbek authorities stepped up pressure on independent journalists two years ago after government troops opened fire on mostly peaceful protesters in the eastern city of Andijan. Survivors and human rights groups say at least 700 people died in the May 2005 crackdown, while the government insists that 187 died and blames Islamic militants for fomenting the violence.

In the months after the uprising, President Islam Karimov's government closed the local offices of the British Broadcasting Corp.; U.S.-funded Radio Freedom/Radio Liberty, and a dozen U.S.-funded aid groups. Several journalists working for foreign media also have been jailed or beaten. Government-controlled Internet service providers developed a system of filtering independent Web publications, similar to one devised in communist China.

Karimov, a Kremlin-appointed Communist boss, has ruled the predominantly Muslim nation of 26 million since before the 1991 Soviet collapse, eliminating political opponents and government critics. The U.S. State Department lists Uzbekistan among the world's worst abusers of religious and media freedoms. (AP)

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