October 28, 2015
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520
Via facsimile and email
Dear Mr. Secretary,
The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to bring to your attention the deteriorating climate for press freedom in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. As you prepare to head to these countries later this week, we ask that you put press freedom on the agenda of your meetings with high-level government officials.
Freedom of the press has steadily worsened in the post-Soviet countries of Central Asia, according to research by CPJ and other international press freedom and human rights groups. In these countries, the media have faced bans on distribution, draconian legislation, and online censorship, and critical journalists and bloggers have been subject to politicized prosecution, violent attacks, murder, and imprisonment.
The voices of critical journalists in these countries have been silenced over the years. Authorities in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan are holding at least six journalists behind bars in relation to their reporting, our research shows. Their cases, which have been independently verified by CPJ, are detailed in a list we are attaching to this letter. Two of them, Muhammad Bekjanov and Yusuf Ruzimuradov, have been jailed in Uzbekistan on anti-state charges since 1999. Another, Kyrgyz journalist Azimjon Askarov, is serving a life term in retaliation for his coverage of official abuses.
All of our findings have been reflected in reports and statements issued by the State Department.
Mr. Secretary, you have staunchly defended and advocated for press freedom during your time as a U.S. Senator and now as U.S. Secretary of State. We urge you to seize this opportunity and stand up for journalists imprisoned in the Central Asian countries. Specifically, we ask that you publicly call on government officials in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan to release all journalists imprisoned in relation to their work.
We look forward to your response.
CPJ Executive Director
Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State
Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
George A. Krol, U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan
Sheila Gwaltney, U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic
Susan M. Elliott, U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan
Allan Phillip Mustard, U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan
Pamela L. Spratlen, U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan