Monday, November 05, 2007

A few words about Alisher Saipov

From time to time on this blog, I have addressed the risks run by journalists in countries where the powerful and the corrupt are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their privileges.

Journalists such as Haiti’s Jacques Roche and Russia’s Anna Politkovskaya (whose stunning final book, A Russian Diary, I reviewed for the Miami Herald) provide an example of steely dedication to the profession that all other reporters can learn much from, especially in these days of ever-reduced foreign coverage in the United States and Europe, and half-baked “activist” journalism that seeks to obfuscate and protect the powerful rather than inform.

I never met Alisher Saipov, but when a friend of mine from New York forwarded along BBC correspondent Natalia Antelava’s poignant remembrance of the Uzbek journalist, it sounds that Saipov certainly belonged among that well-respected company. A reporter practicing in his trait in a country - Uzbekistan - whose president, Islam Karimov, has been named a "predator of press freedom" by the Paris-based journalists’ advocacy group Reporters sans frontières and where “critical journalists simply disappear, are sent in mental hospitals or arbitrarily thrown in prison,” Saipov wrote about government violence, corruption and incompetence in a way that was sure to put him in the sights of those he was demanding be held accountable for their actions.

Antelava writes about how Saipov’s commitment to journalism went beyond simply acting as a reporter. Two weeks ago he had begun printing an Uzbek-language newspaper titled Siyosat (Politics) that was published in Kyrgyzstan and smuggled across the border into Uzbekistan. The Karimov regime responded by portraying Saipov on state-controlled media a terrorist.

Two weeks ago, on October 24th, Alisher Saipov was gunned down by a lone assailant as he left his office in Osh. Kyrgyzstan’s second city. A husband and new father, Saipov, also worked for Voice of America, Radio Free Europe the website, and the Moscow-based news agency. He was 26 years old.

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