Uzbekistan12 September 2005
Uzbek authorities shut down international organization Internews
„The permanent closure of Internews is a clear warning from President Islam Karimov to foreign NGOs who support free expression and are trying to continue their work in the country, said Reporters Without Borders. „This decision proves that the authorities have planned a Œwitch-hunt‚ the object of which is to silence the independent voices that still survive in Uzbekistan."
The municipal court in Tashkent on 9 September 2005 ordered the permanent closure of Internews, under false pretext. The international organisation that supported the development of privately-run independent TV stations in Uzbekistan is, among other things, accused of using its logo without asking prior permission from the Uzbek justice ministry. Since the bloody events in Andijan on 13 May, President Islam Karimov has constantly attacked foreign NGOs, which he blames for popular revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. One year ago, the George Soros Foundation was also banned by the Uzbek authorities which condemned its work in the country as „anti-constitutional".
5 August 2005 Court convicts two Internews Network employees
The Yakkasaray criminal court in Tashkent yesterday convicted Internews Network employees Khalida Anarbaeva and Olga Narmuradova of producing TV programmes without a licence but immediately pardoned them under a presidential amnesty.
"This conviction is clearly a warning to all members of NGOs, especially foreign NGOs, and to all those supporting the few independent voices still being heard in Uzbekistan after the bloody events in Andijan on 13 May," Reporters Without Borders said.
When announcing the verdict, the judge said the prosecution of Internews Network, which is an international NGO, was linked to the fact that it "had begun to meddle in politics in Uzbekistan and in the President’s policies."
Internews Network representatives announced after the trial they would appeal against the conviction. They said the prosecution was politically motivated and was carried out with the aim for forcing it to close down its operations in Uzbekistan. Its bank account has already been frozen since August 2004.
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Journalist brutally beaten and threats issued against an NGO
13 July 2005
Reporters Without Borders expressed alarm at yet another brutal physical assault on a journalist, the fifth this year, and threats made against an international non-governmental organisation.
Two assailants left Razhabboi Raupov, of Radio Free Europe, in a critical condition after beating him with an iron bar near his home in Bukhara on 6 July. Elsewhere the Uzbek government threatened Khalida Anarbaeva and Olga Narmuradova, two members of Internews Network with six months in prison on 11 July and told the NGO to stop its media development work in the country.
"Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the current situation in Uzbekistan, in particular an escalating crackdown on Uzbek journalists," the press freedom organisation said.
"The assault on Razhabboi Raupov is the fifth of its type since the beginning of the year. We also protest against the Uzbek authorities’ threats against international assistance to local media. We urge President Islam Karimov to take all necessary steps to provide better security for journalists and to guarantee freedom of expression in Uzbekistan."
Raupov, a freelance journalist working for a number of news outlets including Radio Free Europe, has written frequent critical articles about the prosecutor and about the head of Bukhara’s local administration, Akhmad Rakhmanov, carried by national newspapers Fidokor, Ishonch and Adolat.
He recently attempted to found a new independent newspaper, Shofirkon kuzgusi but on 30 March the authorities refused to officially register it, after its dummy issue carried criticisms of district authorities and of Rakhmanov in particular.
After being brought to hospital in a critical condition and undergoing an operation, Raupov, was said by doctors to be "stable".
The government on 11 July officially accused members of Internews Network of writing articles and filming without the required permits. Two of its members, Khalida Anarbaeva and Olga Narmuradova, have been threatened with six months in prison under Article 190 (2) b of the criminal code.
The justice ministry has ordered the organisation to halt its training of media specialist lawyers, close its media resource centre in Fergana valley and take off air its two highly popular television news programmes. Last August, the NGO’s bank account was frozen, forcing it to suspend it work.
Internews Network started operating in Uzbekistan in 1995, by supporting the development of privately-owned independent television stations. Since 2001, Internews Uzbekistan has held more than 50 training sessions for hundreds of journalists throughout the country.