Page last updated at 03:28 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 04:28 UK

Kyrgyz journalist death 'private'

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev
President Bakiyev faces deepening social discontent in the poor nation

The authorities in Kyrgyzstan have said a police officer has confessed to getting into a fight with journalist Almaz Tashiyev, causing his death.

Officials said the policeman was off duty and that the argument was unrelated to the journalist's work.

Mr Tashiyev's relatives said he was beaten up by several officers in the incident in the south of the country.

The European security organisation, the OSCE, has urged Kyrgyzstan to halt a wave of attacks on journalists.

The OSCE said last month that the attacks were threatening media pluralism ahead of presidential elections scheduled for 23 July.

Shed light

The journalist died in hospital in his home town of Nookat on 12 July after falling into a coma after the incident on 4 July.

Relatives who attended Mr Tashiyev's funeral on Monday said he told them before an operation for his injuries that he was beaten by eight police officers days earlier in the southern town of Nookat.

But the authorities insist the fight was private.

"That was a usual fight, not related to Almaz Tashiyev's professional activities," Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Sadyrbek Kurmanaliyev told a news conference

He said the Nookat district prosecutor's office in the southern Kyrgyz Osh Region was investigating the incident.

"We have a recording in which the police officer admits to having beaten the journalist," Kyrgyz Interior Minister Moldomussa Kongantiev told AFP news agency.

"On the road, (Mr Tashiyev) met a friend, a police officer. However, there was a private quarrel between them. The officer was out of uniform," Mr Kurmanaliev told reporters in Bishkek.

The French foreign ministry condemned the incident, calling on authorities in the Central Asian state to "shed light" on the tragedy.

Mr Tashiyev, 32, is the sixth journalist in Kyrgyzstan to suffer violence this year.

He was a social affairs reporter whose articles in the newspaper Agym often criticised the government's performance.

Electricity shortages and rampant unemployment are causing widespread discontent in the former Soviet republic.

Critics of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev say the government has tried to stifle opposition ahead of an election during in which he is widely expected to win a second term.

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