Independent journalists were targets of systematic repression in 2005 in the wake of the bloody uprising in the town of Andijan in May. President Islam Karimov’s witch-hunt featured the arbitrary arrest of many opposition journalists and the hounding of foreign media for supposedly provoking the rebellion.
Seven journalists were physically attacked over six months and four of them arrested and threatened for no reason. Seven others were threatened and forced to flee abroad.
More journalists received prison sentences for bogus reasons during the year. Sabirjon Yakubov, of the weekly Hurriyat was arrested in Tashkent on 11 April for “challenging constitutional order” and “belonging to an extremist religious organisation” (article 159 of the criminal code) and faces up to 20 years in prison. Nosir Zokirov, correspondent for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in Namangan province, was sentenced to six months in jail for “insulting a government official” (article 140 of the criminal code) after reporting on the 13 May storming of Andijan prison.
The regime keeps a very tight grip on the media and any sign of independence is punished. The four nationwide TV channels are under presidential censorship and the only criticism is to be found on a few Internet websites. Independent journalists who covered the events in Andijan were called “traitors to the country” and “liars” by most media outlets.
All impartial news has been blocked since the Andijan uprising and cable relay of the US, Russian and British TV networks CNN, NTV and BBC have been cut off. Access to independent Russian websites www.lenta.ru, www.gazeta.ru and www.fergana.ru, as well as several Uzbek sites, has been blocked inside the country.
All foreign and local journalists were expelled from Andijan during the night of 13-14 May and two Russian TV crews, from REN-TV and NTV were turned back.
The government then accused foreign media, during a nationally-televised sham trial, of organising the rebellion. The 15 presumed leaders of the uprising claimed Western journalists encouraged them to “stage a peaceful revolution so as to create chaos.”