New York, December 8, 2021 — Uzbek authorities must swiftly and transparently investigate the recent alleged attack on blogger Fatima Jurayeva and ensure her safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On November 22, the chief accountant at the Ulug’nor district office of the state-owned electricity company Hududiy Elektr Tarmoqlari, in Uzbekistan’s eastern Andijon region, allegedly beat Jurayeva when she attempted to question him about alleged artificial increases to farmers’ utility bills, according to news reports, a video Jurayeva posted on Facebook, and an interview the blogger gave to CPJ via telephone.
The accountant, Saidullo Mamadaliyev, allegedly struck Jurayeva in the face, threw her to the ground, kicked her, and grabbed and smashed her phone, Jurayeva told CPJ.
Yesterday, a spokesperson for the prosecutor general’s office told independent local news site Daryo that police have opened a criminal case against Mamadaliyev over the incident.
CPJ messaged Mamadaliyev on Facebook but did not receive a reply. According to an earlier statement by the electricity company’s Andijon regional office, he denied that he had used any force against her.
“Uzbek authorities must conduct a thorough and convincing investigation into the alleged attack on blogger Fatima Jurayeva and ensure the perpetrator is held to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator, in New York. “Uzbek journalists and bloggers who investigate alleged corruption are in a highly exposed position, and authorities should send a clear signal that acts of violence against them will not go unpunished.”
Jurayeva, who has been active as a blogger since 2012, frequently investigates local citizens’ complaints of corruption and other injustices, she told CPJ, working primarily via her Facebook page, where she has more than 10,600 followers. Jurayeva is a member of the state Anti-Corruption Agency’s Public Council, a public advisory body, and was awarded third place nationwide in the agency’s category of anti-corruption work on social media in 2020, according to reports.
On the afternoon of November 22, Jurayeva went to the Ulug’nor district electricity office accompanied by two women farmers who she believed were being systematically levied with spurious surcharges, the blogger told CPJ. Given that the farmers received state subsidies for electricity, this amounted to a potential theft of state funds, she said. Jurayeva had called ahead and been told by the office’s manager that documentation she had requested on the farmers’ case would be available for her that day.When she arrived, however, Mamadaliyev refused to provide documents or answer her questions and became angry, said Jurayeva.
When the blogger started to film the encounter on her mobile phone, the office manager intervened and tried to take the phone from her, Jurayeva said, at which point the chief accountant struck her above her left eye. Mamadaliyev then grabbed hold of Jurayeva’s hair, threw her to the ground, repeatedly kicked her in the waist and stomach, and took her phone, the blogger told CPJ.
Jurayeva managed to call police using the phone of one of the farmers who remained in the room with her, she said. The accountant, the manager, and three other office employees who had been present but did not intervene during the attack then began to push Jurayeva and the women farmers toward the building’s exit. Having regained her phone, Jurayeva again began to film, she said, but Mamadaliyev again took the phone and repeatedly stamped on it, smashing it.
Mamadaliyev denied striking Jurayeva, saying the blogger was verbally abusive toward him and sought to provoke a scene, according to the Andijon region electricity office statement and reports. In an interview posted on YouTube by blogger Sirojiddin Adilov, the accountant said that Jurayeva fell heavily and broke her phone while trying to film.
Police officers who arrived at the scene took Jurayeva to the hospital, where she received stitches for a split eyebrow and underwent treatment for concussion and bruising, remaining in the hospital for a week, the blogger told CPJ. A police forensic medical examination of Jurayeva, reviewed by CPJ, concluded that her injuries were “very unlikely” to have been self-inflicted or caused by a fall.
The blogger, who suffers from epilepsy, told CPJ that she has experienced seizures since the incident. She fears she would have been killed for exposing a wider corruption scheme at the electricity office had it not been for her call to police, she said.
CPJ called and messaged the manager of the Ulug’nor district electricity office, called and emailed the press office of Hududiy Elektr Tarmoqlari and the company’s Andijon regional office, and called and messaged Hayot Shamsutdinov, spokesperson for the prosecutor general’s office, for comment, but did not receive any responses.