by Nathan Hamm on 9/19/2004 · 4 comments

Those following the Internews shutdown may find this interesting. An official attached to the U.S. embassy said the shutdown, which came for very minor infractions, highlights how nervous the Uzbek government is right now. While this could be taken many different ways, I would bet that it means the Uzbek government plans to harshly enforce laws governing development organizations.

It should be remembered that Uzbekistan has recently been critical of certain NGOs that it feels offer apologias for fundamentalist groups seeking to topple the government.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Laurence September 20, 2004 at 9:11 am

Let’s just look at these issues from the other side, for some perspective. In the US, we do not permit foreign ownership of TV or radio stations, we don’t permit foreign individuals (much less governments) to give money to political candidates, we make all foreign lobbyists register as foreign agents and list their names in a public registry, we don’t allow most NGOs to engage in partisan electoral politics (unless they are 527s), and they must all file 990s revealing their finances in a public document, and are subject to IRS audits. Even Rupert Murdoch had to become an American citizen in order to buy television licenses…

Nathan September 20, 2004 at 10:13 am

It’s important not to lose sight in the discussion that Internews did violate some rules, even if they are pretty minor ones.

I sometimes get the sense that NGOs feel above the law. Pair that with their sometimes adversarial and arrogant tone, and I can kind of understand the impulse to shut them down.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to find the balance between the HRW approach and the UN’s rubber-stamp approach (notwithstanding this, but then again, all the cool kids are tearing on Uzbekistan nowadays). I know that it is possible to provide technical assistance without acting above the law.

Laurence September 20, 2004 at 5:34 pm

Nathan, again that UN link in the previous letter to a story calling for an end to the death penalty in Uzbekistan. We execute more people each year in the USA than Uzbekistan does, plus we have a death penalty for terrorist acts. So why is it right for us, and wrong for Uzbekistan?

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