Rights body condemns Kyrgyzstan murder of reporter

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MOSCOW, Oct 26 (Reuters) Europe's main human rights watchdog voiced shock today at the murder of an independent reporter who was shot dead this week in Kyrgyzstan.

Alisher Saipov, who worked for the US-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was shot twice in the head and once in the head in Osh, a Kyrgyz city on the border with Uzbekistan.

''I am shocked and saddened by the brutal assassination of Alisher Saipov,'' Miklos Haraszti, media freedom envoy with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said in a statement.

''I trust the Kyrgyz authorities will pursue the investigation in a vigorous and transparent manner, so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.'' He added: ''Resolute action is needed to lend journalism the safe working conditions the OSCE is committed to.'' Saipov, an ethnic Uzbek with Kyrgyz citizenship, reported on a range of sensitive political issues, including the activities of Hib-ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group banned in Central Asia.

Press freedom is a concern throughout the region, where reporters often work under pressure from governments, though Kyrgyzstan is seen as more liberal than most of its neighbours.

The US embassy in Kyrgyzstan yesterday urged the authorities there to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation'' into Saipov's murder.

REUTERS SZ PM0058

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