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Uzbek Sports Journalists Ousted After Critical On-Air Comments About Dam Failure

Jamoliddin Bobojonov (left) and Bobur Akmalov (file photo)
Jamoliddin Bobojonov (left) and Bobur Akmalov (file photo)

TASHKENT -- Two Uzbek sports journalists have left their positions after criticizing the state-run television channel for its coverage of the aftermath of a devastating dam failure earlier in May that killed at least four people and displaced tens of thousands of others.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official of Sport TV and Radio told RFE/RL on May 25 that Bobur Akmalov, the editor of Sport TV, and the channel's director-general, Jamoliddin Bobojonov, had been fired.

The official did not give any further details, but his comments came after local media reports said the two had been relieved of their duties after they submitted their resignations on May 22.

Another Tashkent-based journalist familiar with the situation told RFE/RL that Akmalov and Bobojonov had been forced to resign for expressing their opinions in a Football Plus program aired by the Oriat Dono radio station on May 18.

During the broadcast in question, Bobojonov and Akmalov, who was also the anchor of the Football Plus program on Oirat Dono, criticized state-run Uzbekistan 24 for its coverage of the Sardoba dam burst, which flooded several nearby villages.

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Bobojonov said during the broadcast that "on paper and on the Uzbekistan 24 TV channel, everything is great" in Uzbekistan, "while real life is something completely different."

"Well, after watching the reports by Uzbekistan 24, I had the impression that people in Sardoba were happy with the disaster," Bobojonov says, laughing.

Akmalov agrees with Bobojonov and also laughs, saying that reports about President Shavkat Mirziyoev's visit to the area hit by the floods after the dam burst looked like reports from North Korea, "where people always look happy no matter what."

In a Facebook statement, Alisher Hojaev, chairman of the Uzbek National Television and Radio Company (MTRK), accused Akmalov and Bobojonov of "violating corporate ethics and making baseless and untrue allegations."

The statement was later removed from Facebook.

A group called People's Control has launched a petition on Facebook supporting the two journalists and demanding Hojaev's resignation.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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