Uzbek journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev (center), was acquitted and released from state custody on May 7, 2018. (Reuters/Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov)
Uzbek journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev (center), was acquitted and released from state custody on May 7, 2018. (Reuters/Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov)

Uzbekistan releases remaining jailed journalists

New York, May 7, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release from custody today of Uzbek journalists Bobomurod Abdullaev and Hayot Nasriddinov, who had been on trial in Tashkent since March 5, 2018. With the pair’s release, there are no journalists behind bars in Uzbekistan for the first time in two decades, according to CPJ research.

“We welcome today’s release of Bobomurod Abdullaev and Hayot Nasriddinov–the last jailed journalists in Uzbekistan,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Now that the country has freed its press from physical custody, authorities must build on this progress to ensure that the media are able to do their job independently and without fear of reprisal.”

Uzbek authorities detained Abdullaev and Nasriddinov in September and October 2017 respectively on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” and both were facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to news reports.

Judge Zafar Nurmatov today acquitted Nasriddinov of all charges, according to media reports. Nurmatov found Abdullaev guilty of “extremism” and issued a three-year suspended sentence with community service, the reports stated. Abdullaev said he is “happy” with the outcome and does not plan to appeal, according to reports.

The charges against Abdullaev, a freelance journalist who contributed to the independent regional news website Fergana and other media outlets, were related to critical articles he wrote under the pseudonym Usman Khaknazarov, according to the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Uzbek service.

Nasriddinov, who also goes by Khan Nasriddinov, contributed to RFE/RL’s Russian service Radio Svoboda, Fergana, and other outlets. He covered economics, politics, and social issues in Uzbekistan as well as Russia. One of the most recent articles Nasriddinov authored before his imprisonment was an analysis of Uzbekistan’s economic reforms published on the independent regional news site Centrasia in September 2017.

According to CPJ research, five other journalists have been released since Uzbek President Savkat Mirziyoyev came to power:

1. Muhammad Bekjanov: jailed March 15, 1999 – released February 22, 2017

2. Dzhamshid Karimov: forcibly put in psychiatric clinic in January 2012 – released March 1, 2017

3. Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, jailed June 7, 2008 – released October 4, 2017

4. Dilmurod Saiid, jailed February 22, 2009 – released February 3, 2018

5. Yusuf Ruzimuradov: jailed March 15, 1999 – released February 22, 2018