|The Uzbek authorities would rather not see, hear but keep silence. Picture by nnm.ru|
As of today, the imprisoned Uzbek journalists include Khayrullo Khamidov, Dilmurod Sayid, Bahrom Ibragimov, Davron Kabilov, Ravshanbek Vavoyev, Abdulaziz Dadakhonov, Botyrbek Eshkuziyev, Shavkat Ismoilov, Davron Tadjiyev, Salijon Abdurakhmanov, Yusuf Ruzimuradov and Muhammad Bekjan.
Dozens of unhappy
The Erk party newspaper journalists, Yusuf Ruzimuradov and Muhammad Bekjan, arrested in 1999, have been languishing in Uzbek prisons longer than others.
Then Bekjan was given a 15 years’ prison term, which was later cut by three years and eight months under amnesty in 2003. He was expected to be freed early this year, but on 24 January, a few weeks before the expected release, the prison administration in Karshi opened a new case against the journalist.
A court of law issued an verdict finding him guilty under article 221 of the criminal code, “Defiance of legal requirements of the administration of a penal establishment”, and will remain in jail for another five years, which was expected. A court of appeal upheld the decision of the previous court in mid-March.
As for Ruzimuradov, the contact with him and his relatives was lost over five years ago, so it is unknown now where the journalist lives now or whether he is alive.
On 10 October 2008, journalist and human rights defender Salijon Abdurakhmanov from Karakalpakstan was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Abdurakhmanov, who cooperated with Uznews.net, the UK-based Institute for War and Pease Reporting and several other foreign and independent media outlets, was sentenced on absurd charges of drugs trafficking.
In mid-February 2009, five founders and publishers of the Irmok (A spring) were imprisoned. These are Bakhrom Ibragimov, Davron Kabilov, Ravshanbek Vafoyev, Abdulaziz Dadakhonov and Botyrbek Eshkuziyev
They were accused of involvement in the Turkey-based religious organisation Nur (ray), which is banned in most of the CIS countries.
One month later, another two journalists, Yetti Iklim (Seven Dimensions) newspaper correspondents Shavkat Ismoilov and Davron Tadjiyev were also imprisoned to eight years each for involvement in Nur.
On 22 February 2009, Dilmurod Sayid, an independent journalist and a member of the Uzbek human rights organisation Ezgulik (Mercy), was also imprisoned to 12.5 years. When the journalist investigated violations of farmers’ rights in Samarkand region, the authorities put him behind the bar on charges of extortion and bribe taking.
The Uzbek justice also victimised a Navruz radio presenter and a Champion newspaper correspondent, Khayrullo Khamidov, who was sentenced to 6 years in prison on charges of membership of a banned religious organisation and distributing banned materials.
Behind the entire planet
Uzbekistan remains one of the worst countries in the annual Press Freedom Index of the international organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB), which advocates freedom of speech.
In 2001, the country upgraded by six items and ranked 157 taking over Azerbaijan and Belarus. However, improvement in the rating does not mean real improvement in the situation surrounding press freedom in Uzbekistan, Johann Bihr, RWB’s Europe and Central Asia expert, commented after the publication of the index.
“We absolutely do not think that the situation with regard to press freedom in Uzbekistan is better than in Belarus and Azerbaijan,” then he said.
As of 1 April 2012, the number of registered media outlets in Uzbekistan totalled 1,254, including 706 newspapers, 225 magazines, 16 news bulletins, four news agencies, 64 TV and 36 radio stations and 173 websites.