New York, April 9, 2007-The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores the criminal charges filed against Yuri Chernogayev, correspondent for the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Tashkent prosecutors charged Chernogayev on March 27 with “working without a license,” under Article 190 of Uzbekistan’s penal code, according to international press reports. Deutsche Welle reporter Mikhail Bushuyev told CPJ the broadcaster had submitted the necessary documents to the Uzbek Foreign Ministry and was not aware of an official refusal to accredit Deutsche Welle correspondents.
Uzbeck authorities withdrew an initial tax evasion charge after it became apparent the journalist paid taxes in accordance with a bilateral agreement between Germany and Uzbekistan, reported the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
“We call on Uzbek authorities to put an end to its persecution of Deutsche Welle correspondents and to immediately withdraw the charge against our colleague Yuri Chernogayev,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.
The charges against Chernogayev follow the criminal prosecution of his colleague Natalya Bushuyeva who was charged on March 23 with concealing her income and working as a reporter without accreditation. If convicted, Chernogayev faces up to three years of corrective labor, while Bushuyeva faces up to three years in jail, according to international press reports.
Uzbek authorities have previously harassed Chernogayev for his work with Deutsche Welle. In March 2006, the Foreign Ministry issued formal warnings for him to not work with non-accredited journalists, and reprimanded three other Deutsche Welle correspondents in connection with their reporting.
Since President Islam Karimov expelled independent journalists affiliated with foreign-funded media in the aftermath of the bloody crackdown in Andijan in May 2005, Uzbekistan has become the world’s sixth leading jailer of journalists, according to CPJ research. Five journalists were held in Uzbekistan prisons when CPJ conducted its annual survey in December 2006, and a sixth journalist, Umida Niyazova, was jailed in February 2007. Uzbek authorities have not responded to several CPJ inquires regarding the journalists’ locations and conditions.