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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Uzbekistan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Uzbekistan, February 1998, available at: [accessed 25 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Uzbekistan's abysmal record on press freedom has not changed much since it gained independence in 1991. Claims by the autocratic president Islam Karimov about freedom of speech and the lack of censorship in the large Central Asian nation carry little substantive meaning or connection with reality. Karimov and his government maintain a tight grip on State Television and Radio, whose broadcasts are thoroughly censored, sterile, and devoid of open debate and comment on the politics and the economy. The state limited the number of Russian television programs broadcast in the country to a minimum, dooming the 23 million Uzbeks to a diet of Karimov's speeches, political propaganda, and other sanitized broadcasts. The one non-government channel in Tashkent, launched in March, was allowed to rebroadcast only the entertainment and family programs of the Russian ORT. As proof of the seriousness of the president's call for democratization, the BBC and Radio Liberty were allowed to open offices in Tashkent in this otherwise closed country.

The print press is also heavily controlled and censored. In the Soviet tradition, front pages of state-run newspapers such as Narodnoe Slovo and Pravda Vostoka regularly feature the president's photograph and unabridged speeches. Liberal Russian newspapers are banned, as are Uzbek independent and opposition papers published abroad. Underground opposition newspapers smuggled in from Russia introduce some criticism of the government into the country.

Karimov recently has professed a "commitment to democratic media and reform," which he attempted to prove with the passage of a Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the Mass Media in the last week of December. The draft law was published in November in Narodnoe Slovo and passed during the December session of the Oli Majlis, the national legislature. Article 2 of the law states that censorship of mass media is "inadmissible," and yet the Republican Committee on Mass Media, appointed by the government, completely controls the registration process of media outlets.

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