Reporter jailed for “insulting” security officer

New York, August 30, 2005—An Uzbek court sentenced a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to six months in prison for insulting a security officer, the radio said today. Nosir Zokirov, an Uzbek who has worked for the radio’s local language service for eight years, was summoned to court in the eastern city of Namangan on August 26 on charges of insulting a National Security Service (NSS) officer in a telephone call, RFE/RL said in a statement. Zokirov was detained, tried without counsel or witnesses, sentenced and imprisoned all on August 26.

The charge stemmed from a phone call Zokirov made on August 6 to the Namangan NSS office to protest pressure on poet Khaidarali Khomilov. In an interview in early August with Zokirov the poet had criticized a crackdown on May 13 in nearby Andijan where between 500 and 1000 anti-government demonstrators were shot and killed by security forces, according to eyewitnesses and human rights organizations. The authorities put the death toll at 187.

In the aftermath of the Andijan crackdown Zokirov and other reporters working for foreign media outlets faced harassment. On May 17 Zokirov’s land and cell phone lines were cut. A source at his mobile service provider told Zokirov the line was shut down on “higher orders”, RFE/RL said.

“We demand Nosir Zokirov’s immediate release and an end to such flagrant political use of the courts to muzzle reporters”, CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call upon the authorities to allow Zokirov and all journalists to work freely and without fear of Soviet-style repression.”

Read CPJ’s letter protesting the crackdown.