January 19, 2011
In response to the 2005 Andijan massacre, the
No case depicts the full extent of repression as that of the president’s own nephew, journalist Dzhamshid Karimov, who has been held in a psychiatric hospital for more than four years in retaliation for his critical reporting. In September 2006, security agents kidnapped him off the street in his native city of Jizzakh and threw him in a clinic in a neighboring region. He has been held incommunicado since. No lawyer dares represent him, local sources told CPJ, as no one will dispute what is commonly viewed as a presidential decree.
In a recent disturbing trend, Uzbek authorities have begun to use so-called “experts” at the State Agency for Press and Information to indict the few remaining independent voices. Since 2009, these “experts” have provided testimony that helped convict three independent reporters and to imprison one civic activist on bogus criminal charges of defamation and insult. Among them were prominent photojournalist Umida Akhmedova and Abdumalik Boboyev, a local correspondent for the U.S. government-sponsored broadcaster Voice of America. Based on the alleged experts’ opinions, prosecutors concluded that Akhmedova’s photo series depicting life in rural Uzbekistan and Boboyev’s critical articles have “insulted the Uzbek people and its tradition.” The Uzbek Criminal Code contains no such provisions.
Uzbek security services continue to intimidate independent reporters by inviting them for “informal talks” at their offices, during which the journalists have discovered that their every step was being monitored by authorities. In 2010, Uzbek prosecutors phoned–instead of sending officially required summonses–at least six reporters and asked them to come by their office, the journalists told CPJ. Journalists were interrogated without their lawyer present on their current and past reporting assignments, and presented with detailed personal dossiers compiled by authorities about the journalists and their families.
Censorship has been pervasive in the country since the 2005 crackdown. To this day, the government continues to block domestic access to critical international websites, and jams foreign broadcasters it expelled from the country that same year, sources told CPJ. The banned media include regional news websites Ferghana, CentrAsia, Uznews, EurasiaNet, Voice of Freedom, Lenta, and broadcasting services of the BBC Uzbek Service, the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (
In a rare development, two news anchors for state-controlled Yoshlar TV publicly described censorship practices at work in August. At a press conference held at the Tashkent-based human rights group Ezgulik, the anchors said that government officials pre-screened their programs, censored reports they found critical of the state, and instructed the journalists to present information from the government-owned news agency. “State officials of any level–from the presidential administration and security council to bank clerks, tax police agents, and customs officers–can interfere in our work,” the anchors said.
We urge you to make clear that relations with Europe are dependent on press freedom and human rights, and that you will stand by the principles outlined in the EU-Central Asia action plan.
We ask you to publicly call on Karimov to release all our imprisoned colleagues. We also ask that you encourage him to cease official intimidation of the independent reporters, unblock independent news websites, and allow foreign broadcasters back in the country. As a signatory to U.N. treaties and
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.