6 June 2005


IPI concerned about ongoing media crackdown; activist faces criminal defamation charges

Incident details

Saidjahon Zaynobiddinov

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an IPI press release:

Vienna, 6 June 2005

IPI Concerned about the Ongoing Media Crackdown in Uzbekistan

According to information provided to IPI, journalists were barred from covering last month's events in Uzbekistan. For several days after the unrest in Andizhan, eastern Uzbekistan, on 13 May, all local and foreign journalists were prevented from reporting in the city. The army and police sealed off the city and those journalists already present were expelled.

On 18 May, journalists were brought to the city and shown pre-selected areas and told stories confirming the government's version of the 13 May events. According to reports, journalists were prevented from interviewing the city's residents at random. Until this visit, Andizhan had been practically cut off from the rest of the world.

Human rights activist Saidjahon Zaynobiddinov faces criminal defamation charges for statements he made to the press about the violence in Andizhan, said his lawyer Mavluda Ahmedova in an interview with Radio Liberty's Uzbek Service. Zaynobiddinov was an important source of independent information from Andizhan both before and during the unfolding events. His accounts frequently contradicted information provided by official Uzbek sources. Zaynobiddinov was arrested in 21 May.

Based on reports from Uzbekistan, many local journalists, who work for foreign media outlets, and who witnessed the violence, are afraid of retribution from the authorities. They have been accused of lying about the events on the order of their media employers. According to Agence France Presse (AFP), journalists have said that possible reprisals by the authorities could be something as simple as a denial of accreditation or, worryingly, something more serious.

Uzbek border guards on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan assaulted Vladislav Chekoyan, a cameraman for Russian channel TVTs on 21 May. His camera and mobile phone were confiscated. He was filming demonstrators demanding the release of rebels arrested in Kara-Suu, also on the border between the two countries, on 18 and 19 May.

Commenting on the violation of media freedom in Uzbekistan, IPI Director Fritz said, "These are just a few of the violations that have taken place in the last few weeks. The sudden increase in press freedom violations, media harassment, and lack of information about the situation in Andizhan are a disturbing sign that the authorities are trying to stifle independent reporting about the incident."

"When events of such magnitude take place, as in Andizhan in early May, the media must be allowed to carry out their professional duties - to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers - as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Fritz added.


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