August 14, 2001
His Excellency Islam Karimov
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
43 Uzbekistanskaya Street
Tashkent, Uzbekistan 700163
Via Facsimile: 011- 998-71-139-55-25; 139-55-10
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, is deeply concerned by the criminal charges of forgery against TV ALC director Shukhrat Babadjanov.
The charges against Babadjanov relate to a 10-year-old letter of recommendation for Babadjanov that was evidently signed by Ruzi Chariev, a prominent Uzbek painter, but written by Babadjanov himself. The journalist, who is also a well-known artist, was applying to join the Uzbekistan Union of Artists. He claims that Chariev asked him to write the letter because Chariev does not write well in Uzbek.
According to information received by CPJ, Babadjanov was forced to flee Uzbekistan last week after the Tashkent prosecutor’s office summoned him for questioning on August 6 in connection with the charges.
These charges appear to be the latest salvo in a long government campaign against Babadjanov and TV ALC, an independent, Urgench-based station that was forced off the air in November 1999.
Local authorities shut down TV ALC despite protests from thousands of Urgench residents and appeals from the international community. Officials claimed they closed the station because it lacked alarm systems to protect its equipment. But Babadjanov and his colleagues maintain that the closure was in retaliation for TV ALC’s critical coverage of the government, particularly during the run-up to the January 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Since the closure, Your Excellency’s government has repeatedly turned down Babadjanov’s applications for a new broadcasting license. On July 24, 2001, Babadjanov was ordered to vacate his station’s premises within a week because he had been denied a license again.
The nature and timing of the criminal charges leads us to believe that they have nothing to do with a decade-old letter of recommendation, and everything to do with silencing an independent and often critical television station.
We also believe that Babadjanov was justified in fleeing the country, particularly in light of the deaths in detention of writer Emil Usman and human rights activist Shovriq Rusimorodov earlier this year.
CPJ is profoundly troubled by your government’s persecution of Shukhrat Babadjanov. We call on Uzbek authorities to drop all charges against Babadjanov and restore TV ALC’s broadcasting license.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to your response.
Ann K. Cooper