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Bloody Repression By Bush Ally In Uzbekistan

A crowd of young Uzbek men gather near their houses in the Chorsu district of the capital, Tashkent, to exchange news about local and international affairs. A lucky few have cable TV and access to Russian and international news but most have to rely on local sources.

"I think we will soon have a common currency with Russia," one said, having heard Uzbekistan will be admitted to the Eurasian Economic Community in March this year.

"Now the borders will be open and we can freely travel to Kazakhstan," another said, having heard of the recent visit of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev to Tashkent.

Informal street discussion like this -- based on hearsay and word-of-mouth -- is all that many Uzbeks have to rely on in this former Soviet republic of 26 million. The government is thorough in restricting access to information and heavily censors local television and radio news, as well as newspapers.

Uzbeks complain that television news agencies, such as Ahborot, Davr and Poytaht, are not providing the right kind of news and information to allow them to make decisions about their lives, work or future.

"Are you kidding? What kind of information can I get from Ahborot? Only that everything is fine in our country and that there are no problems," Avaz Kodirov, a former tax officer, said.

The BBC, which stopped operating in Uzbekistan in October 2005, and local journalists who work for foreign news agencies are restricted in what they can report on.

"Self-censorship is the name of the game here, if I send stories that are critical of the government, I have been warned I will lose my press accreditation," one of the few local journalists filing for a leading international newswire, said.

Foreign NGOs working to build capacity in local media like Internews have also packed their bags after falling foul of the authorities. "Internews was trying to introduce something completely new here: critical reporting and giving a voice to a range of opinions, no wonder they left," one former employee said, referring to the NGO's October closure last year.

Journalists working for Uzbek media outlets are similarly frustrated. "Trust me, we have very good journalists and we could do much better reports, but they are never used," a reporter working for the Davr television news program, said.

State television remains the main source of information in the big cities, while in rural areas radio is the main medium.

"I cannot afford a television so I try and get news from the radio, but it is only music," Mannop, a pensioner from Jizah, told IRIN.

The lack of news and reliable information in Uzbekistan has worsened since the uprising in Andijan in May 2005, when authorities reacted to a demonstration in the eastern city by opening fire and killing hundreds of unarmed civilians. Human rights groups estimate more than 500 people were gunned down, while the government says the figure was 187, comprising security forces and Islamic extremists.

Those hungry for information from other countries can try the Internet, but some websites such as the Russian-based news and information website and others are not accessible, with "Bu saitga kirish taqiqlanadi" (You are not allowed to visit this site) appearing on the screen.

This leaves official news websites such as and, but their output is confined to Soviet-era reports of success in the cotton sector and the achievements of President Islam Karimov, say Uzbeks keen to know what is going on beyond their borders.

"When I return to Tashkent to see my family it's like being in an information vacuum, like being in a closed room without windows," said Faizula, a young Uzbek labor migrant working in Moscow.

[Integrated Regional Information Networks is a project the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]

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Albion Monitor   April 10, 2006   (

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