Reporting the News

by Nathan Hamm on 5/17/2005

Those who’ve been following developments in Andijon know that the expulsion of journalists from the city has contributed to confusion about the situation. Reporters Without Borders has a call for the US and EU to pressure Uzbekistan to allow journalists access to the city.

Uzbek and foreign journalists should be allowed to work normally so that Uzbek civil society as well as international opinion can be informed about political and social developments at this particularly crucial time, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“We strongly condemn the silence imposed by the Uzbek authorities that gives rise to completely unverifiable rumours and sows terror among the local population,” said Reporters Without Borders.

The news blackout imposed by the authorities since 13 May remains in force across Uzbek territory. Foreign TV channels, BBC, CNN and DeutscheWelle, broadcast by cable and satellite, are still inaccessible to viewers. Russian TV news bulletins on NTV, ORT and Rossiya have been replaced by blank screens and musical interludes. News bulletins on the four Uzbek public channels were replaced by footage of agricultural work.

Those who’ve spent time in Uzbekistan and had the great pleasure of watching local news broadcasts have surely noticed how bizarre they can be. Happy people working in fields and surpassing production goals seems to be all that happens in the world according to Uzbek news (plus the occasional absolutely horrible, chaotic thing overseas to highlight how gosh-darn nice Uzbekistan is). On 9/11, Russian television was the only way (other than shortwave radio) to know what was happening. I’m often critical of the Russian media, but for many Uzbeks it is the most reliable source of information available. Uzbek society is already information-hungry, and with almost all of the avenues for news shut down, rumors, confusion, and fear thrive.

It’s worth taking advantage of the attention on Uzbekistan to highlight what reporters have to deal with there. Local journalists are providing the best reporting from Uzbekistan, and they do so despite enormous obstacles. Citizens are unable to reach the most consistently informative news sites, and Uzbek journalists must censor themselves when it comes to certain topics–some of which are not so obvious. Though there are few journalists currently in prison in Uzbekistan, there are enough to keep the rest of them quiet and afraid.

Currently in prison is Sabirjon Yakubov, a young journalist arrested for… that’s right.. undermining the constitutional order and belonging to an extremist group. Reporters Without Borders has background on his case, and there area few items in our archives, including the State Department’s reaction.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

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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