President Islam Karimov pledges to address the concerns of Uzbek journalists. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
President Islam Karimov pledges to address the concerns of Uzbek journalists. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Karimov should uphold media pledge by freeing journalists

New York, June 27, 2013–Uzbek President Islam Karimov should follow through on his public commitment today to support his country’s journalists by releasing the unjustly jailed reporter Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. News accounts have reported that the health of Abdurakhmanov, who has been imprisoned since 2008, has deteriorated in prison.

In celebration of Uzbekistan’s national Day of Media Workers, Karimov today stressed the importance of the media for the future of Uzbekistan and pledged his promise to address journalists’ concerns.

“We are deeply concerned about the welfare of Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, who has been wrongly imprisoned for five years in retaliation for his critical reporting on local government and police,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Nina Ognianova said. “We call on Uzbek authorities to release him at once.”

The independent news website Uznews reported on June 21 that its reporter, Abdurakhmanov, had been taken to a prison hospital in the capital, Tashkent, to seek treatment for acute stomach ulcers, the website reported. This is the second time the journalist has been hospitalized this year, Uznews reported. Abdurakhmanov also received treatment for a similar ailment at a prison hospital in late February, the news outlet reported.

CPJ has been advocating for Abdurakhmanov’s release since his arrest on June 7, 2008, in the city of Nukus on charges of possessing drugs that local police said they found in his car. CPJ determined that the charges were fabricated in retaliation for Abdurakhmanov’s journalism. The journalist had frequently reported on corruption in Uzbek law enforcement agencies, including the traffic police.

Abdurakhmanov has already served five years of his 10-year prison term.

Karimov has one of the worst records on press freedom in the region, CPJ research shows. Since the Andijan massacre in May 2005, authorities have virtually eradicated independent reporting in the country through politically motivated prosecution, imprisonment, and intimidation. At least four independent journalists continue to languish in Uzbek prisons, their terms ranging from 10 to 19 years in jail.

In an open letter on Wednesday, a group of U.S. senators, including Richard J. Durbin, Benjamin L. Cardin, and John McCain, urged President Karimov to release Abdurakhmanov, among other imprisoned journalists and human rights activists.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Uzbekistan page.