Saipov, editor of the independent Uzbek-language weekly Siyosat (Politics) and contributor to several regional news outlets, was shot three times at close range at around 7 p.m. in downtown Osh, a city bordering Uzbekistan, by an unknown gunman using a silencer, according to news reports and CPJ sources. He died at the scene.
Saipov, 26, covered Uzbekistan's political and social landscape for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America, and the Central Asia news Web site Ferghana. He had interviewed members of the banned Islamic groups Hizb-ut Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to local CPJ sources. Exiled opposition activist Shakhida Yakub, who was close to Saipov, told The Associated Press that the journalist had recently become politically involved with Uzbek opposition groups.
An ethnic Uzbek, Saipov lived in and reported from the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, just across the border from the Uzbek city of Andijan. Saipov covered the aftermath of mass killings in Andijan in May 2005, when government troops shot at crowds of civilians protesting President Islam Karimov's regime. He reported on Uzbek refugees who fled and resettled in Kyrgyzstan. The Uzbek government put the Andijan death toll at 187; human rights groups say more than 700 were killed.
Prior to his murder, Saipov had received anonymous threats warning him to stop his press and political activities, a local source close to the journalist told CPJ. A state television channel in the Uzbek city of Namangan had recently aired a program smearing Saipov as a provocateur who tried to destabilize Uzbekistan with his reporting. Several state publications ran similar articles, the same source told CPJ.
Following the Andijan killings, Uzbekistan moved aggressively to expel, drive into exile, imprison, and harass independent journalists, human rights defenders, opposition activists, representatives of international nongovernmental groups, and witnesses. Many found refuge in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, but Uzbek security services infiltrated the area and continued harassing them there, according to human rights groups. Local press reports said that Uzbek security agents had been spotted in the heavily ethnic-Uzbek city of Osh.
Saipov had helped scores of Uzbek refugees in southern Kyryzstan, assisting them with lodging and linking them with resettlement agencies, AP said. He had also reported on the fate of Uzbek refugees in Iran for Ferghana, the news site said.