Uzbekistan | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

85

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

34

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

25

Despite constitutional guarantees of free speech and the abolishment of censorship in 2002, numerous official and unofficial constraints severely hampered media freedom in 2004. With censorship officially a thing of the past, information control has passed unofficially to editors and journalists, who engage in self-censorship. A former Uzbek television journalist compiled a list of "forbidden" topics in 2004 for an independent Uzbek organization that tracks media issues; taboo subjects include poverty, labor exploitation during the cotton harvest, and any criticism of President Islam Karimov. Violators face reprisals. Journalist Sergei Yezhkov was dismissed from the newspaper Pravda Vostoka in January, officially as part of a staff reduction; however, his critical articles about abuses by law enforcement bodies were the likely cause of his dismissal. Journalist Nadzhid Abduraimov, convicted in 2001 of criticizing authorities, was released in April. Ruslan Sharipov, the independent journalist whose conviction and imprisonment on dubious homosexuality-related charges in 2003 sparked an international outcry, was also released in 2004 and received political asylum in the United States. Yet four other journalists remained in prison on what are believed to be politically motivated charges, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Other journalists, especially those working for foreign media outlets, suffered attacks. Matluba Azamatov, a BBC and Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) stringer, and Jamshid Karimov, a journalist working for the IWPR, suffered attacks that appeared to be linked to their journalistic activities. With the domestic media largely under official control, Uzbek authorities used registration requirements to clamp down on foreign organizations with a media focus. In January, IWPR was refused registration; in April, the Open Society Institute in Tashkent lost its registration; and in September, Internews-Uzbekistan was suspended for six months.

The government owns the three national dailies and several other publications and does not allow the general distribution of foreign media. Four state-controlled television stations dominate the broadcast market. Official media were slow to report a series of violent attacks in Bukhara and Tashkent in late March-early April, although they provided more timely coverage of three suicide bombings in late July. Official media ignored the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's April decision to curtail lending to state-controlled organizations and imposed a media blackout on a series of demonstrations over restrictions on trade in September. Authorities made some attempts to encourage more lively coverage of parliamentary elections in December, leading to the appearance of several articles critical of officially registered political parties; but international observers noted that all of the parties involved were pro-government, as no opposition parties were allowed to participate in the elections. Internet use is rising rapidly in Uzbekistan, yet there are still few Uzbek-language news sites, and consistent reports indicated that the authorities block materials critical of the government and shut off access to Uzbek opposition sites.