Reporters Without Borders today said it was surprised by a UNESCO award to Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the fact that the Uzbek government has described it as a reward for “his efforts on behalf of friendship between peoples.” UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura gave Karimov the organisation's Borobudur gold medal during a visit to Tashkent on 8 September. Contacted by Reporters Without Borders, UNESCO today explained that the medal was just a matter of protocol and in no way represented any recognition of President Karimov's activities. But Karimov's office said in a statement that he was given the medal for strengthening friendship and cooperation between the nations, development of cultural and religious dialogue, and supporting cultural diversity. The statement has been picked up by the Uzbek press. Expressing its surprise, Reporters Without Borders said: “Islam Karimov is one of the world's worst press freedom predators, and the systematic repression of Uzbekistan's independent media has been stepped up ever since the May 2005 uprising in Andijan.” The organisation added: “UNESCO's job is to develop links between people in order to consolidate peace based on universal respect for justice, human rights and basic freedoms, so we deplore the fact that its visits, even ones carried out for purely protocol purposes, enable Karimov to derive political benefit from his country's UNESCO membership.” Uzbekistan is ranked 155th out 167 countries in the Reporters Without Borders classification of countries according to their respect for press freedom.