Reporters Without Borders called today for a new enquiry in the case of a journalist who went on trial on 26 July for extortion after writing articles about embezzlement by local officials. The reporter, Sobirjon Ergashev, correspondent of the newspaper Inson va Qonun in the town of Toy-Tepa, near Tashkent, as well as local human rights organisations, say he is being targeted for the articles.
"The local authorities are seen by many as biased," said Reporters Without Border secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Uzbekistan's general prosecutor, Kadyrov Rashid Hamidovich. "In view of the continually worsening climate of intimidation of the independent media in Uzbekistan, we shall watch carefully how the authorities react in this case."
Egashev wrote in Inson va Qonun, a justice ministry organ that specialises in legal affairs, about theft of funds by local officials in charge of distributing farmland. The criticised officials accused him of extorting 500,000 soms (_400) from several farmers.
Reporters Without Borders notes that independent news is regularly suppressed in Uzbekistan. The media is not allowed in practice to mention the existence of political opposition, crime, corruption or anything to do with civil liberties and the rights of individuals or minorities. State officials use imprisonment, physical attacks and intimidation of families to hit at journalists who contravene this unofficial rule.