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Uzbekistan October 4, 2006
H.E. Islam Karimov
Republic of Uzbekistan
Fax: (011.998.71) 139-5525
The crack-down against any information that does not originate from government-sanctioned sources, a sad fact of life for our Uzbek colleagues in 2005, has continued this year with special vehemence. Here are just a few recent examples, all of them a blemish on the reputation of Uzbekistan in the world:
* Nosir Zokirov is the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist sentenced last year to six months in prison for the alleged “crime” of insulting a security officer, a charge so vague as to be absurd on its face. The alleged “insult” — questioning the manner in which your government put down a demonstration in Andijan — is well within the bounds of discourse in modern democracies. At a trial in which Mr. Zokirov was judged without counsel or witnesses, he was convicted and imprisoned. Since his release in February, he has not been allowed to live in peace. Instead, he has been regularly harassed, including the confiscation of many of his possessions and the detention of his son.
* Ulugbek Khaidarov, an independent journalist, was arrested on a self-evidently bogus charge of extortion this month in an attempted entrapment — so crude, it would be comical if Mr. Khaidarov were not now facing five to 10 years in jail.
* Saidburkhon Kadyrov, editor-in-chief of the Bukhoro Yoshlari, was stabbed in his office on September 13.
* Dzhamshid Karimov — a respected independent journalist, a frequent critic of yours and your nephew — has not been heard from since his disappearance September 12. His elderly mother, whom Mr. Karimov was visiting when he vanished, reports that authorities have ignored her calls for help.
The few remaining foreign journalists in Uzbekistan have been forced to leave. Foreign media such as RFE/RL, the BBC and the Institute for War & Peace Reporting have been forced to close their Uzbek bureaus. Foreign telecasts and Web sites are being blocked. Local journalists who freelanced for foreign agencies have been fired from their state jobs.
Uzbekistan ‘s ugly reputation with respect to free speech, Your Excellency, is making it an international pariah. In a country where three out of ten people live in poverty, surely, there are better things for the government to do than to silence some of its most committed and intelligent citizens.
The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) respectfully requests the end of harassment of journalists, local or foreign. Specifically, we ask that you do all in your power to secure the release of Ulugbek Khaidarov.
Information, Your Excellency, is like water. It will always find an outlet. Damming it may sometimes work for a while, but as a strategy — especially in democracies — it is a loser.
Freedom of the Press Committee
Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan
1746 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington , DC 20036
Fax: (202) 293-6804
Ambassador Alisher Vohidov
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Uzbekistan
to the United Nations
801 Second Avenue
New York , NY 10017
Fax: (212) 838-9812
U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan
Embassy of the United States of America
3 Moyqorghon Street , 5th Block
Fax: (011.998.71) 120-6335