Press Freedom in Central Asia
Cross-regional and Blogosphere, Media and Internet2 Comments
Welcome to the second roundup of news on press freedom in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
We’ll start in Kazakhstan, where the radical opposition newspaper ‘Juma Times’ has been ordered to close. The paper was charged with insulting the ‘honour and dignity’ of President Nazarbayev in the run-up to last year’s elections.
Gulzhan Yergaliyeva, the editor of another opposition newspaper, Svoboda Slovo, has been jailed for holding an ‘unsanctioned demonstration’ on the death of Altynbek Sarsenbayev. Yergaliyeva has gone on hunger strike to protest against her imprisonment.
On the Turkmenistan blog, Peter reports on the March 7 arrest of two RFE/RL Journalists. As of March 10, their whereabouts are still unknown, and the telephone lines to all other RFE/RL correspondents in the country have been blocked.
The Tajik Ministry of Communications is aiming to tighten control over internet service providers and international telecoms, through a plan to route all telephone and intenet traffic ‘Unified Communications Center and Information Resource Unit’. However, there are doubts as to whether the Government’s plan is feasible.
Nick discusses a new resolution from the Uzbek Government which strenghtens the regulations on foreign journalists on the Uzbekistan blog.
Meanwhile, in further bad news for RFE/RL, two former Uzbek employees have attacked the service. Rakhmatzhan Kuldashev, the ex-head of the Tashkent bureau, is demanding $20,000 compensation from his former employer, claiming that ‘Humiliation and poverty are all I got for my faithful service’. Another ex-correspondent, Khusniddin Kutbiddinov, has written an open letter in which he states that the Uzbek Government is ‘much more humane’ than RFE/RL.
In Azerbaijan, an opposition journalist was brutally attacked. Fikret Huseynli, who has been threatened in the past for his work on exposing corruption in the Azeri Governemnt, was left in a critical condition. The attack came almost a year after the still unsolved murder of journalist Elmar Husneyov.
Journalists in Georgia suffer from a different type of threat to their work. The media owners who control many major outlets appear uninterested in encouraging investigative journalism, fearing that it may damage their market position and relations with the Government.
Finally, here’s an interesting report on RFE/RL on increasing coverage of previously-taboo religious issues by non-traditional media sources, including the internet, in Central Asian countries.