Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called today on US secretary of state Colin Powell to use his influence to stop the Uzbek government "brutally repressing" the country's independent journalists. It noted the physical attack on one of them, Ruslav Sharipov, shortly before he was due to go to the United States to testify about the worsening human rights situation in Uzbekistan. In a letter to Powell, RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard said: "The regime of President Islam Karimov is using the excuse of fighting terrorism to brutally repress any independent journalism in the country. We ask you to use your influence with the Uzbek authorities to stop them threatening the media and also to let them know that the United States is concerned about the fate of Mr Sharipov." RSF learns that Sharipov, the Uzbekistan correspondent of the Russian news agency Prima, president of the Uzbek Independent Journalists' Union and editor of an Internet web, was attacked on 5 February by three men, one of whom tried to strangle him. The next day he was attacked again by two men who hit him on the head and in the stomach and seized his passport and journalist's card. Sharipov is due to travel soon to the United States at the invitation of the International Human Rights League to testify about the serious threats to journalists and defenders of individual freedom in Uzbekistan. He was previously attacked on the night of the 30th of January in Tachkent by two representatives of the police force. Ruslan Sharipov and the press agency Prima consider that this attack is tied to an article recently written by the journalist concerning the referendum of the 27th of January on the extension of the presidential mandate of president Islam Karimov. In 2001, Ruslan Sharipov and members of his family were already subjected to a number of pressures from the authorities. On the 12th of July, 2001 he was chased by employees of the security service (NSS) while on his way to the court of Tachkent where he was going in order to cover a trial. His assailants were about to hit him when passer' bys intervened. The journalist managed to take refuge in the local headquarters of the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He had published, at the end of August, a series of articles denouncing the repression of Muslims in the country and was otherwise making an investigation on the suspicious deaths of a number of opponents. Following these incidents Ruslan Sharipov requested, in an open letter to the Uzbek president, an end to being tailed by the security services, an end to pressures being made on his family, and that he may be allowed to pursue his profession as an independent journalist.