Uzbek News Censors Karimov Comments on Birth Control

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by Nathan Hamm on 5/18/2012 · 11 comments

Uzbekistan’s popular Axborot news program showed that even Islom Karimov must be censored if he speaks about subjects too sensitive for Uzbekistan’s national mentality. According a report originally published by Ozodlik (in Uzbek), Axborot cut a portion of comments Karimov delivered while meeting with President Putin in Moscow. During his talk with Putin, Karimov brought up birth rates and the need to prevent population from growing too quickly for the economy to keep up.

Axborot reported Karimov as saying,

The population of Uzbekistan is now nearly 30 million people. We are doing all we can so that the growth of our population corresponds to the growth of our economy so that future generations can live better than us, be smarter than us, and live happier lives than us. If one looks through this lens, our children must grow up so that they are no more worse off than those of the most developed countries.

What he actually said, according to he transcript of the meeting available from the Kremlin in Russian and in English was,

Uzbekistan’s population today is nearly 30 million people. I am not saying that the population is growing rapidly: unlike Russia, we are doing everything we can to make sure that the population growth rate does not exceed 1.2 to 1.3.

It is our firm belief that given the present situation and our current prospects and resources, which include first of all water, territory and arable land, our main challenge is to provide everything our people need, and most importantly to make sure that the future generation lives better than we do, and is smarter and happier than we are. From this perspective, we try to use public campaigns, education and healthcare to ensure that population growth corresponds to economic growth. [Если смотреть через эту призму, мы и в этом вопросе через пропаганду, агитацию, медицину пытаемся создать условия, чтобы темпы роста нашего населения соответствовали темпу роста экономики..] Our children should enjoy the same standards of living as children in the most developed countries. This is the Kremlin’s translation. I’ve inserted the Russian original after the second to last sentence.

Ferghana speculates that Axborot wanted to avoid even hinting at birth control, a taboo subject, and especially at anything that might suggest the government does indeed engage in a campaign of forced contraception or sterilization.

Placing Karimov’s comment in the context of how Uzbekistan’s government works, this looks as close to an admission that the state is indeed engaged in suppressing the birthrate as one could ever expect. For every one of the government’s sinister policies, there is a tame explanation from the highest levels of government. If forced labor in cotton is just “children helping their families earn an income,” “job training,” or “a peculiarity of national culture,” then it’s not hard to interpret a “public awareness, education, and healthcare” campaign to keep birthrates low to be referring to a campaign going back more than a decade that forces contraception and sterilization on women in rural areas.

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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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Metin May 19, 2012 at 2:21 am

The news program seems to be consistent in its style of reporting – portraying the government policy in positive lights. That’s understandable, it is financed by the state. The program probably found terms like ‘population growth rates’ and others potentially misleading for the audience and removed them.
Just curios, do news program in your country do anything like this too?

Nathan Hamm May 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Kind of, but it’s a bit differently. Our most popular tv news channel spins things in a way that makes the Obama administration look as bad as possible. We have another news channel that spins things to make the administration look as good as possible.

ilkham May 20, 2012 at 11:24 am

please!!, don’t touch us!!, see on your own problem!!!

AtoZ May 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Was it necessary to stamp the photo? If yes, why? And why is it not in English?

I do agree with Metin, it is something that you would expect from state backed tv channel. There is nothing wrong with it. There might be a government policy to control the birth rate. Can you name any developed or developing country that does not do it? Whether it’s forced or not that seems to be the main issue here, am I right?

Nathan Hamm May 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Was it necessary? No. Does it highlight the irony of the president’s comments being altered for the Uzbek audience? That was the point anyway.

I can name developed countries that don’t do this. Pretty much all of Europe and North America. The US doesn’t have much state support to news media, but the bit that does receive such support is actually produces some of the most accurate and even-handed we have.

Will May 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm

No, Nathan. The U.S. government tries to control the birth rate, especially of its poorer population. Free condoms at Local Health Clinics and the Centers of Planned Parenthood that are financed by government comes to mind. As long as it is not forced, I don’t think it is a problem.

Nathan Hamm May 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Nope. Subsidies for birth control are more about making contraceptives and family planning services more widely available. Changes in birth rates are a second-order effect that I’ve never heard anyone but fringe groups advocate. If anything, there’s a need for higher birth rates as the assumptions behind many social welfare programs are for increases in the working population to support a smaller retired population.

Will May 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm

While that may be the stated goal, I don’t believe the poor can’t afford contraceptives. It’s cheap and covered by insurance as well. Higher birth rates among the poor drains the social welfare programs too.

Dmitriy Nurullayev June 2, 2012 at 8:05 am

There is a big difference between making birth control methods available (providing condoms, education, etc.) and forced sterilization.
It must be admitted that the Uzbek government did a good job in advocating condom use 5 or 6 years ago through Komolot organization, but the focus of that campaign was to prevent HIV/AIDS. The emphasis was never put on birth control and topic of sex education was never covered in high school. It seems like the government finds the topic of birth control sensitive, so instead of education and providing birth control methods, they find force sterilization cheaper, easier and more efficient although in direct violation of human rights.

Will June 3, 2012 at 11:36 am

Did you read my first post?
You are wrong saying that the government didn’t emphasize birth control methods. Health clinics offer (they did a few years ago and I believe the program is still running) free condoms or other non-surgical methods to mothers with young children. How do I know it? Well, if you have kids, you got to visit clinics for health checkups, immunizations, etc. Also, it was very common to see contraceptives being advertised on TV during commercial breaks.
The last part of your comment is driven by emotions; forced sterilization cannot be cheaper than the other non-invasive methods.

pepe May 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Hello benim bi vardı onu hallettiler işte bende bunu actım bir kaç gün kalmasına müsade edin yeter teşekkürler.

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