Stockholm, June 14, 2021 – Uzbek authorities should conduct an impartial and thorough investigation into the recent attack on three employees of the independent news website Effect.uz, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On the afternoon of June 7, a group of people shoved, hit, and chased Rahmatullo Nasretdinov and Abror Eshonkhonov, reporters with the outlet, and Sukhrob Umarov, a camera operator, while they were conducting an interview at the mayor’s office in the eastern city of Andijan, according to a report by Effect.uz and Nasretdinov and Eshonkhonov, who spoke to CPJ in video interviews and via messaging app.
The reporting team accompanied members of the public who were filing official complaints to the mayor’s office, and were filming the complainants speaking to Rahim Ziyayev, the director of the Andijan city council secretariat, when Ziyayev demanded that they stop filming, Nasretdinov and Eshonkhonov said.
When the journalists refused, Ziyayev pushed Umarov’s camera away and then made a phone call, summoning several people who then grabbed Nasretdinov and started pushing him out of the building, took Eshonkhonov’s phone after he began filming, threw it aside, and also shoved him out of the building, and then chased the reporting team from the scene, the journalists told CPJ.
The team sustained scratches and bruises, Nasretdinov received a sprained finger, and Eshonkhonov’s phone was broken in the incident, the journalists said. Eshonkhonov underwent tests at the Namangan city hospital after receiving a blow to the back of the head during the scuffle, he said; he was released the following day and is receiving psychological treatment.
“Physical attacks on members of the press who are carrying out their work are simply unacceptable, especially when they are apparently instigated by public officials and their supporters,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Uzbek authorities must conduct an impartial investigation into the recent attacks on a reporting team from Effect.uz, and ensure that all the perpetrators are held to account.”
Nasretdinov and Eshonkhonov told CPJ that one of the attackers had introduced himself as Ziyayev’s son, Sherzod Ziyayev; they said he was the one who broke Eshonkhonov’s phone.
After fleeing the mayor’s office, the Effect.uz employees drove from the scene, but Sherzod Ziyayev and another man pursued them, the journalists told CPJ. The journalists pulled over and appealed to a traffic police officer for assistance, and Sherzod Ziyayev exited his vehicle and threatened to kill the journalists if his father, who he said suffers from a heart ailment, became ill as a result of the altercation, Nasretdinov and Eshonkhonov said.
The Uzbekistan prosecutor general issued a statement following the attack, saying that the Andijan regional prosecutor’s office was looking into the incident. Nasretdinov and Eshonkhonov told CPJ that they feared local authorities could suppress any investigation into the attack.
CPJ was unable to find contact details for Rahim or Sherzod Ziyayev, or for the Andijan city council secretariat.
In a video posted to Facebook by Oisha Yakubova, a spokesperson for the Andijan district government, featuring both men, Sherzod Ziyayev said that he acted to protect his father’s health, and said he merely seized the journalists by the arms and led them out of the building.
CPJ emailed the Andijan mayor’s office and the Uzbek Ministry of Interior for comment, but did not receive any replies.