Threats to Journalists: Uzbekistan

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  • In October 2010, VOA Uzbek Service reporter Abdulmalik Boboev was fined more than $10,000 by an Uzbek court that convicted him of slander, insult and publishing information harmful to the public peace.  Boboev had faced eight years in jail on the charges.
  • Two ethnic-Uzbek correspondents for RFE/RL based in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh were targeted for attacks during the inter-ethnic violence that erupted in the city beginning on June 10. Hakimjon Khusanov was held at gunpoint on the street by several unknown men; he identified himself as a journalist with Radio Azattyk, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, at which point he was released.  He took refuge with his family in a basement of a nearby house where he hid for several days before being escorted on a plane to Bishkek by members of RFE/RL’s Prague staff and Kyrygz service. Sherzod Yusupov’s house was burned down during the early days of the violence. He also hid with his family before being shepherded out of the city by RFE/RL colleagues. Both men and their families have temporarily relocated to Bishkek.
  • Umida Ahmedova, a prominent photographer who has donated hundreds of her photos of Uzbekistan to RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service for use on its website, was charged with defamation and damaging the country’s image in response to photos and videos taken to portray village life in Uzbekistan. The photos were used in two documentaries, “The Burden Of Virginity” and “Customs Of Men And Women,” which were sponsored by the Swiss Embassy in Tashkent. Ahmedova was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison, but was immediately amnestied.
  • Sherzod Yusupov, a Kyrgyz citizen and freelance journalist for RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service (Radio Ozodlik) based in Osh, received a threatening phone-call on May 26, 2009 from an individual who falsely identified himself. Earlier that day, Mr. Yusupov had been reporting on assignment in the border area between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.  Yusupov was sufficiently frightened by the phone call to leave Osh and relocate in Bishkek on May 28.  At the same time, someone who identified himself with the State Committee for National Security of the Kyrgyz Republic inquired about him at the Uzbek-language Pedagogy and Humanities faculty at Osh State University, which he had attended.  Between May 26 and June 11, Yusupov’s mother and several of his friends also received calls asking for information about his work and whereabouts.  After relocating to Bishkek, Yusupov reported being followed. He returned to Osh in mid-August.  RFE/RL sent a letter reporting these incidents to the State Committee for National Security on June 22, but there has been no response.
  • In June 2008, Solijon Abdurahmanov, a former contributor to RFE/RL from the remote Uzbek province of Karakalpakstan, was charged with drug possession with intent to sell and detained in a prison in Nukus. He was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in July. In September, a court in Nukus sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment.
  • In June 2008, State TV in Uzbekistan’s Ferghana region aired a documentary villifying RFE/RL Uzbek Service broadcasters and portraying the broadcaster as an agent of manipulation, deception and anti-government activity. The documentary, which also furnished personal information about staff working in Tashkent and Prague, was shown three times, the final time on a national channel. A short video excerpting the documentary was also produced, and reportedly distributed in parts of the country on DVD. RFE/RL president Jeff Gedmin responded to the outrage with a visit to Tashkent July 9-10, but a Deputy FM rebuffed his insistence on security for RFE/RL journalists and said that all was “business as usual.”
  • Nosir Zokir, a former correspondent for RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service who broke the story of the Andijon massacre in 2005, was detained for two days in May 2008 and fined after reporting to the local precinct to get his son out of jail. Zokir claims that his son had been detained as a ploy to detain the father. The incident happened on the 3rd anniversary of the massacre.
  • RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service was forced to close its Tashkent bureau in December 2005 in the wake of the May 2005 massacre of civilians in the city of Andijon. Most RFE/RL Uzbek correspondents were relocated to Prague, where they continue to broadcast on behalf of RFE/RL; others scattered, some going to live in other countries.
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