the Disillusioned kid: Uzbekistan Roundup
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Friday, January 28, 2005

Uzbekistan Roundup

There's far too much bad stuff going on in the world for me to cover more than a tiny, tiny fraction of it. So I try to focus on a few areas, with the odd commentary in response to the big story of the moment, or something which has caught my eye. One country which I try to follow closely is Uzbekistan. Much of my material on this is drawn from the reporting of the the Institute for War and Peace Reporting who provide an excellent email bulletin on Central Asia. Given that I haven't written much on Uzbekistan recently, I thought I'd run through a few of the stories that particularly struck me.

Firstly a report suggesting that torture continues amongst Uzbek authorities. This is hardly surprising to anyone familiar with the country and there isn't much more to say other than that this is obviously a bad thing.

I've written previously about the elections which took place in Uzbekistan on December 26 and warned in advance that they would be little more than a farce. This report by Galima Bukharbaeva and Yusuf Rasulov in Tashkent, and Tulkin Karaev in Karshi suggests that the reality may have gone even further than I'd previously suggested. The report questions the Central Election Commission's claims that 85% of voters took part in the December 26 elections and 80% in run-offs on January 9. They cite Erk party figures which estimate the turnout at around 30%. They even quote Bahriddin Shaivaliev, a member of the pro-government Fidorkorlar party who calculated that there had been no more than 300 voters in the polling station he monitored, but saw 1,000 ballot papers at the end of the day. They also report that some pro-government candidates were removed from the ballot, without any forewarning. While opposition parties were prevented from participating for political reasons, they point to political scientists who suggest that pro-government candidates "were removed because of financial interests and bribes." An entirely reasonable conclusion given the kleptocratic nature of the Karimov regime.

On a less obviously political note, a troubling report by Yusuf Rasulov reveals that "a string of murders and rapes of young girls in the Uzbek capital Tashkent has gone unreported by the country’s restricted state-run media, so that news is replaced by fearful rumours." While the whole piece is worth reading, I'd like to point out the following paragraph, which I think is likely to go a long way to explaining the virtual silence on the issue and says much about Uzbekistan's media:
A former correspondent for the national news agency UzA, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said strict state control of the news media has killed off initiative among many Uzbek journalists, saying many wait to be given a command before acting and have no “nose for news”. Journalists also lack the professionalism to act independently and dig out information, he said.

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