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Live Shows Disappear From Uzbek TV Screens

Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov
Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov

Several live programs have disappeared from the airwaves in Uzbekistan in recent days, including a popular new talk show that was a forum for frank discussions of the shortcomings of the authorities.

State media journalists in the tightly controlled country told RFE/RL on August 22 that Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov ordered a stop to all live shows excepts for newscasts after a tense meeting the previous day with state TV officials and employees.

The journalists spoke on condition of anonymity due to fears that they could be punished for discussing the sensitive subject with other media or the public, and there was no official statement or comment on the issue.

The journalists said that Aripov sharply criticized the host of the talk show Press Club, Sherzod Qudrathojaev, during the gathering at the National Radio and Television Company's media center in Tashkent.

Press Club, which began airing several weeks ago, quickly gained popularity with viewers hungry for free discussion and analysis of the actions of officials.

Journalists who attended the meeting said that Aripov was accompanied by presidential adviser Hairiddin Sultonov, who has been supervising Uzbek media for a quarter-century and is known by reporters as "the chief censor."

They said that Aripov told the meeting that programs that had previously been aired live would now be subject to Sultonov's approval.

Sultonov served under longtime President Islam Karimov, who ruled with an iron fist before his death in 2016, and remains in place under President Shavkat Mirziyoev.

Mirziyoev has taken steps to open up the long-isolated country of some 30 million, but rights groups say many problems stemming from overbearing state control have yet to be addressed.

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

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