The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Europe's main human rights watchdog, has expressed concern over Uzbekistan's assault on the independent media, including RFE/RL journalists.
Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE's media freedom representative, voiced concern over Tashkent's "intimidation and harassment of nongovernmental journalists." The OSCE statement, issued on June 17, came after Uzbekistan detained an independent reporter and accused RFE/RL Uzbek Service journalists of antistate activities.
"Independent journalist Solidzon Abdurakhmonov was recently detained on drug charges, and reporters working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty were accused of carrying out antistate activities in an hour-long program broadcast repeatedly since June 9 by Uzbek state television," the statement said.
Haraszti added that the assaults on free journalism in Uzbekistan were "especially regrettable as Uzbek authorities told me during my visit last week that they were ready to start the much-needed reforms of the media governance in the country."
While in Tashkent, Haraszti said he also called on the Uzbek government to carry out specific steps to help the country's nonstate media, including providing accreditation for reporters from the BBC, RFE/RL, and Deutsche Welle. He also called for the release of all those imprisoned "for expressing critical views," which together with "the return of foreign media outlets to Uzbekistan would be important first steps toward compliance with OSCE commitments, as well as a signal of stability."
Haraszti also "asked his counterparts in meetings to liberalize media regulations and to allow for pluralism and political debate in the press. He also called for privatization in the print media, the creation of a public-service broadcaster, easy registration and licensing of media outlets, and decriminalization of libel," the OSCE statement said.
The statement was the second time in recent weeks that the OSCE's representative on media freedom has intervened on behalf of RFE/RL journalists in Central Asia, where the environment for nonstate media appears to be steadily deteriorating.
On May 21, Haraszti sent a letter to Kazakh Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin, urging the government in Astana to restore access to RFE/RL's Kazakh-language website. The website had been blocked for some two months for "technical reasons," according to the Kazakh state telecom operator. Service was finally restored two weeks ago.