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Uzbekistan bars another reporter from foreign media

Written by: Staff
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TASHKENT, Mar 17 (Reuters) Uzbekistan has cancelled the accreditation of one of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle's correspondents in the Central Asian state, the latest reporter for a foreign news organisation to have his credentials revoked.

The country has taken an increasingly tough line with foreign media since they reported eyewitness accounts of troops opening fire on a crowd in the town of Andizhan last year, killing hundreds of civilians.

Officials say troops were crushing an Islamist rebellion and only 187 people, either ''terrorists'' or police, died.

Obid Shabanov, an Uzbek citizen who works for Deutsche Welle's Russian service, had his accreditation revoked on Tuesday for filing an ''inaccurate report'' about a bus accident in January, the Foreign Ministry said.

Under a new media law introduced this month, it is illegal to work as a reporter in Uzbekistan without accreditation from the Foreign Ministry. Accreditations can be revoked for a range of reasons including interfering in the country's internal affairs, the law says.

Following the bloodshed in Andizhan, which led to European Union sanctions against Uzbekistan and criticism from former ally Washington, US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty had its permission to operate in Uzbekistan revoked.

Britain's BBC World Service, which has an Uzbek-language service, closed its Tashkent bureau citing official harassment.

Yuri Chernogayev, one of Deutsche Welle's three other accredited correspondents, said he believed the story by his colleague about the bus accident was a pretext to put pressure on them.

He had reported in January that 30 people froze to death in a bus that broke down in the desert in subzero temperatures.

''Obid Shabanov has the relatives crying recorded on audio tapes. They came to him themselves. All of the town of Bukhara knew about it,'' Chernogayev said.

He said he had been told by the Foreign Ministry not to talk to journalists who had not been accredited.

''They are making us work secretly,'' he said.

REUTERS SK RAI0444

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