Tag Archives: media freedom

Uzbek journalists accuse official of beating them up

TASHKENT/JUNE 7 2021 (The Bulletin) — Concerns over the Uzbek authorities’ commitment to media freedom have once again been raised after journalists covering the trial in Andijan of three reporters accused of libel said that they had been beaten up by the son of a local official.

This year, the Uzbek government passed a law that bans criticism of Pres. Shavkat Mirziyoyev ahead of an election in October. This preceded the arrest of several journalists and bloggers, considered to be anti-government.

Western media freedom groups have become increasingly sceptical of statements by Pres. Mirziyoyev, who took over from the reclusive Islam Karimov in 2016, that he wants a more free society and open society in Uzbekistan.

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— This story was published in issue 487 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 9 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Tajikistan celebrates Day of the Media despite poor press freedom record

MARCH 11 (The Bulletin) — Media activists criticised the Tajik government for celebrating a Day of the Media despite having one  of the world’s worst media freedom records. During the day, six journalists were given awards. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has lodged a complaint with the authorities after two of its journalists were attacked at the end of February while investigating stories about fuel prices increases.

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— This story was published in issue 475 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on March 15 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Comment: Human rights in the region are worsening

JULY 31 (The Bulletin) — If there was doubt about the direction of travel for media and human rights in Central Asia and the South Caucasus, the past fortnight has dispelled it. 

First Tajikistan and Azerbaijan teamed up to block a second term for two highly thought-of senior officials at the Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Solrun Gisladottir, as head of its vote monitoring unit ODHIR, and Harlem Desir, the OSCE’s media representative. All 57 members of the OSCE have to agree on each of the key appointments and Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, with some support from Turkey, said that Desir and Gisladottir had been biased against them. 

In truth, Desir and Gisladottir had just been clear on calling out Tajikistan and Azerbaijan for what they are. Serial abuses of democratic principles, media freedom and civil rights.

And then there is also the death in a Kyrgyz prison of Azimzhan Askarov. He was an ethnic Uzbek whose mistake was to irritate the Kyrgyz authorities in the south of the country in the years before inter-ethnic fighting broke out in 2010. The police in Kyrgyzstan are dominated by ethnic Kyrgyz and Askarov accused them of bias against Uzbeks, torture and abuse. 

He was arrested in the aftermath of the fighting in 2010 and accused of murdering a policeman. Human rights groups and Western diplomats said that the charges were fabricated but their protests were ignored and Askarov was imprisoned for life.

Even when it was clear that Askarov was gravely ill, the authorities in Kyrgyzstan refused to grant him any clemency. Human Rights Watch accused the Kyrgyz authorities of wanting Askarov to die in prison.

So, there we have it. Tajikistan and Azerbaijan undermine one of the more effective on-the-ground peace-making organisations and Kyrgyzstan targets an annoying Uzbek human rights activist to die in one of its prisons. 

Myopic, narcissistic and nihilist, their true colours have been visible for all to see over the past fortnight.

The region is less stable without an effective OSCE and less equitable without Askarov. 

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— This story was published in issue 455 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 31 2020.

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

Kyrgyz film showing corruption aired on Youtube

JULY 28 (The Bulletin) — The producers of a film showing corruption by Kyrgyz officials said that the authorities tried to block the film’s release. Meken shows a stand-off between a Chinese mining company and Kyrgyz villagers. It also shows bribes being paid by Chinese workers to Kyrgyz government officials for breaking various environmental rules. Although the film is fiction, it is rooted in real life events. The director of Meken, Medetbek Jailov, said that the film was supposed to be aired earlier in the year but was blocked because the security service had demanded that corruption scenes were removed. Instead, the producers will release the film, for free, on Youtube.

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— This story was published in issue 455 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 31 2020.

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

Russia plot to kill journalist was foiled, says Georgian security services

JUNE 16 (The Bulletin) — Georgia’s security services said that it had foiled a Russia-backed plot to assassinate a Georgian journalist who mimicked Russian President Vladimir Putin last year. The journalist, Nika Gvamaria,  swore on TV when referencing Mr Putin last year, a tirade that the authorities said encouraged violent anti-Russia protests.

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— This story was first published in issue 451 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, published on June 23 2020

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

Radio Free Europe chiefs says Tajik officials hinder reporting on the coronavirus

APRIL 5 (The Bulletin) — Tajikistan has not reported any cases of the coronavirus. It has closed its borders but there are no restrictions within the country on people’s movement. The Tajik football season is one of only four in the world — the others being Belarus, Nicaragua and Burundi — that are continuing to play league matches.

The head of the US-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty news service, Jamie Fly, said that Tajik officials were deliberately obstructing the efforts of his journalists to report on the coronavirus.

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— This story was first published in issue 441 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

Azerbaijan frees journalist who says he was abducted from Tbilisi

MARCH 27 (The Bulletin) — Afgan Mukhtarli, the Azerbaijani journalist freed from prison in Baku last month, once again accused the Georgian government of colluding with Azerbaijan’s government over his abduction from Tbilisi and subsequent arrest in 2017.  “If they admit that I really was kidnapped in Georgia and handed over to the Azerbaijani authorities illegally, that could result in the resignation of the Georgian government,” he told the GlobalVoices website. Mr Mukhtarli was jailed for crossing a border illegally, charges he said were actually linked to his critical journalism. He has fled to Tbilisi from Baku in 2014.

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— This story was first published in issue 441 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

Azerbaijan releases journalist abducted in Tbilisi

MARCH 17 (The Bulletin) —  Afqan Muxtarli, an Azerbaijani investigative journalist who was kidnapped from Tbilisi in 2017 where he had been living in exile and handed over to police in Azerbaijan, was unexpectedly freed from prison in Baku (March 17). Mr Muxtarli, who was convicted of smuggling and illegally crossing the Azerbaijani-Georgian border and sent to prison for six years, always maintained that he was targeted because of his journalism. He had fled Azerbaijan in 2014 because he said that he was warned that he would be arrested. Human rights activists accused the Georgian authorities of colluding in the abduction of Mr Muxtarli. 

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— This story was first published in issue 440 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

Human Rights Watch says Uzbekistan is still ‘authoritarian’

MARCH 1 2020 (The Bulletin) — The New York-based Human Rights Watch said that although Uzbekistan has made some progress on improving its human rights record since Shavkat Mirziyoyev took over as president in 2016, it is still an authoritarian government where “many promising reforms continue to exist only on paper”. It said that thousands of people were still in detention on politically motivated charges and that the media was continually repressed.
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— This story was first published in issue 438 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

European Court for Human Rights says Azerbaijan jailed reporter to punish her

FEB. 28 2020 (The Bulletin) — The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Azerbaijan had imprisoned journalist Khadija Ismayilova in 2015 to “silence and punish her for her work” and ordered the government to pay her compensation of 20,000 euros. Ms Ismaylova, a journalist who has reported on government corruption, was released in 2016 after spending 537 days in jail. She had been sentenced to 7-1/2 years in jail for financial crimes that rights groups said were fabricated. This is the third ECHR ruling in favour of Ms Ismayilova against the Azerbaijani government. She said, though, that it has ignored the other rulings.
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— This story was first published in issue 438 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020