- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, March 3 (UPI) — A prominent Uzbek journalist called Monday for the dismissal of a vice premier and two high-ranking officials he said were responsible for the closure of the newspaper he was editing.

Ismat Khushev said the Milliy ta'lim — The National Education — newspaper was established by the Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education last January and closed on Feb. 21 after publishing three issues. The order of the closure was given by First Deputy Minister Rustam Kosimov.

Khushev said that Kosimov orally used the name of the Vice Premier Khamidulla Karomatov as a cover to close the newspaper. According to Khushev, the vice premier was afraid of possible critical articles that could appear in the newspaper.

Kosimov said Monday the newspaper had been closed because of a lack of financing and various mistakes made in the newspaper.

Khushev lodged a complaint against Karomatov in the president's office but the plea was unanswered. Khushev called the head of the agency of information and the press Rustam Shogulomov for help. Khushev said that Shogulomov dismissed and insulted him.

Khushev called for Karomatov, Shogulomov and Kosimov to be dismissed.

Khushev said he feared for the safety of himself and his four children. Shogulomov, according to Khushev, told Khushev's friends that he would be arrested.

"The persecution of freethinking journalists … becomes a tendency in today's Uzbekistan," Khushev said.

A number of arrests of journalists and editors have taken place in Uzbekistan this year.

Tokhtamurad Toshev, the chief editor of the Adolat (Justice) newspaper was arrested Feb.20. Journalists Ergash Bobojonov and Oleg Sarapulov were arrested Feb. 22 and Feb. 2, respectively, but subsequently released from detention.

Ghairat Mekhliboev was arrested last July and sentenced on Feb. 18 to seven years in prison for inciting religious intolerance, attempting to undermine the state system and participating in mass unrest.

"I have a feeling that somebody secretly told officials: 'Attack! Start!'" Khushev said.

However, Khushev believes that President Islam Karimov will help him when the president finds out what happened.

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