Uzbekistan31 August 2007
National holiday reminder about severe repression of media
On the eve of Uzbekistan’s national holiday tomorrow, Reporters Without Borders condemns the severity of governmental repression of independent news media and human rights activists, especially when they try to point out the lack of democracy and freedoms, combat discrimination or expose corruption or torture.
“In office since independence in 1991 and reelected for five years in 2000, President Islam Karimov had his current term extended by referendum in 2005,” the press freedom organisation said. “The next election, originally scheduled for January of this year, is finally going to be held in December. This is a crucial year. We already know the media will not be able to cover this election freely and will not have access to essential information.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “The media and foreign NGOs have been constantly harassed this year. Several NGOs that have headquarters in other countries or get foreign funding were forced to stop working altogether after withdrawal of their accreditation. We were appalled by the six- and seven-year prison sentences imposed on Gulbahor Turayeva and Umida Niyazova in the spring and by the methods used to make them recant on their past activities.”
The European Union decided on 14 May to partially ease the sanctions adopted against Uzbekistan after the March 2005 events in Andijan, but many journalists are fleeing the country and media continue to be closed down. Said Abdurakhimov of Uznews.net and Alexei Volosevitch of Ferghana.ru were detained and interrogated by the military on 23 July for unclear reasons. On 31 July, the government agency that regulates the press ordered the closure of Odamlar Orasida, an independent weekly that covered sensitive social issues such as prostitution and homosexuality.
Furthermore, Deutsche Welle correspondent Natalia Bushuyeva would almost certainly have been imprisoned if she had not fled the country after being accused of working without a licence and tax fraud in March.
President Karimov is on the Reporters Without Borders list of press freedom predators. Uzbekistan was ranked 158th out of 168 countries in the organisation’s 2006 World Press Freedom Index. There have been at least 31 serious press freedom violations since the Andijan massacre.