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Uzbekistan: 'Authorities Can Do Anything To Silence A Journalist'

Nosir Zokirov, a former correspondent for RFE/RL's Uzbek Service (RFE/RL) May 3, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Khurmat Babadjanov, a broadcaster with RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, discusses the difficulties of reporting from Uzbekistan, which has been particularly problematic since the May 2005 violent crackdown on demonstrators in Andijon.

"[People used to] come [to our bureau] with complaints about the rights situation, harassment, the situation in prisons.

"For example, many relatives of prisoners would come with complaints that [their] son or relative had been tortured in prison and we [would] ask immediately how he was, could they describe how he looked. Now they go [to] the many rights organizations in Uzbekistan.

"The impact [of the closure of our bureau] is that we are covering the situation in Uzbekistan from Prague. We work with sources and the Internet; we double check this information through our sources.

'We asked Zokirov, 'Maybe you should leave if you're facing harassment,' but he told us, 'No, I will continue my job.'

"I'll give you one example. One day my relative who's a businessman, he sent me an SMS saying the highway from Tashkent to Syr Darya Is blocked by protesters. I immediately called and asked him what he saw there. He [said] dozens of people had blocked the highway to protest the closure of a local market.

"Then I called the Syr Darya [regional authorities] and I asked, 'What's going on in the highway? I'm a businessman and I sent my workers to Syr Darya and they claim that the highway is blocked.' And she confirmed this information and then we reported it. Radio Liberty reported it first.

Reporter Jailed And Harassed

"[RFE/RL correspondent] Nosir Zokirov was the first reporter about [the May 2005 unrest in] Andijon. In the morning he called us and reported that a group of people attacked the prison in Andijon and freed some prisoners. He was the first reporter about Andijon. But after a few months he was at the center of harassment in Ferghana Valley. He [was] called to the local police for interrogation.

"We asked Nosir Zokirov, 'Maybe you [should] leave the region if you're facing harassment,' but he told us, 'No, I won't leave, I will continue my job.' But finally he was arrested with the charges of harassing a local security official.

"This case shows that the local authorities can do anything to silence a journalist."

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

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