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Troll attacks on RFE/RL journalists in Uzbekistan are on the rise. On October 16, dozens of posts threatening the station's reporters appeared on its Telegram in just 30 minutes. (file photo)

Staff members of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, known in Uzbekistan as Ozodlik, have received numerous online death threats in recent days as Central Asia's most populous nation gets ready for presidential elections next week.

On a single day, October 16, dozens of posts threatening RFE/RL's journalists appeared in the Uzbek Service's Telegram channel in just 30 minutes.

The vulgar posts carried threats of beheadings and sexual assaults and were accompanied by images with pornographic elements and an identical caption reading: "Ozodlik's real goal is to marshal a mutiny in Uzbekistan, to disrupt peace, to discredit our president." The posts also hurled insults at RFE/RL's Uzbek Service staff members and their mothers.

Most of the posts came from anonymous accounts. However, the Uzbek Service's Telegram communication managers found out that at least two threats came from accounts associated with users promoting the Uzbek government’s policies related to armed forces.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly called the threats "disgusting" and urged the Tashkent government to immediately end its intimidating tactics against independent media.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has positioned himself as a democratic reformer after he took over the country of some 34 million people following the death of his authoritarian predecessor, Islam Karimov, in September 2016.

However, in the run-up to presidential elections scheduled for October 24, arrests and attacks on bloggers and journalists have been on rise across the country.

Also, the website of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service was blocked several times and RFE/RL's requests for official accreditation of its correspondents in the country have remained unanswered.

Uzbekistan ranked 157th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

An FBI officer stands outside a house linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in Washington on October 19.

FBI agents have been conducting "court-authorized law enforcement activity" at properties in Washington and New York linked to Oleg Deripaska, a U.S.-blacklisted Russian oligarch with ties to the Kremlin, news agencies reported on October 19, citing a spokesperson for the law enforcement agency.

FBI agents were seen carrying boxes out of a house that had yellow police tape across the front yard in one of the U.S. capital's wealthiest districts. They were also seen towing away a vehicle.

The FBI, however, didn’t confirm whether the residence on 30th Street in the U.S. capital was Deripaska's home. A 2017 Washington Post report tied a property on that street to Deripaska, who has been subjected to U.S. sanctions since 2018.

A spokesperson for the FBI's New York office confirmed that "law enforcement activity" at a property in the Greenwich Village neighborhood situated in the New York borough of Manhattan but did not give further details.

Deripaska's representative told Reuters that the FBI was conducting searches at two houses belonging to relatives of the tycoon in New York and Washington, adding that Deripaska was not the owner of the houses.

The representative said the searches were being carried out based on two court warrants related to U.S. sanctions.

Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska (file photo)
Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska (file photo)

The United States sanctioned Deripaska and six other Russian oligarchs in 2018 for supporting Russia’s "malign activity around the globe," including the Kremlin's aggression against Ukraine and because of their ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin afterMoscow's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

The U.S. Treasury Department also sanctioned three companies -- Russian aluminum giant Rusal, its parent company En+, and power firm EuroSibEnergo -- which are linked to Deripaska. Given Rusal's size and importance, the sanctions roiled global metal markets, unnerving businesses in the United States and Europe.

The U.S. administration later reached a deal with the three Russian firms to end Deripaska's control in return for the lifting of the sanctions, forcing the oligarch to divest much of his holdings.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and TASS

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About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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