Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The constitution of Uzbekistan both guarantees freedom of expression and information (Article 29) and, as of May 2002, bans official censorship (Article 67). Nonetheless, in practice press freedom is severely limited by the government of President Islam Karimov. The threat of conviction for defamation of the president, which remains illegal, and the continued physical harassment and intimidation of journalists leads to significant self-censorship on the part of editors and publishers despite the official ban on government censorship. In 2003 numerous cases of physical and legal harassment of editors and journalists were reported. However, the arrest, imprisonment, and alleged torture of Ruslan Sharipov, a journalist and the former head of the Independent Union of Journalists of Uzbekistan (IUJU), riveted the attention of international press freedom and human rights organizations. Sharipov, who had written numerous articles critical of the government, was arrested in May on allegations of sodomy, having sexual relations with minors, and managing prostitutes. Although Sharipov is an admitted homosexual and homosexuality is itself illegal in Uzbekistan, the fact that it is rarely prosecuted led most observers to see his arrest as politically motivated. Despite serious concerns about the reasons behind his arrest in May, the irregularities of his trial, and his claims of torture while in detention, Sharipov remained in prison in deteriorating health through the end of the year. Broadcast media remain subject to annual re-registration requirements, while print media remain heavily dependent on the state for both printing and distribution. In response to the government's lifting of the requirement for all Internet service providers to route connections through the state-run server, Uzpak, the availability of Internet access expanded in 2003, although Web sites considered objectionable by the government were frequently blocked.