Reporters Without Borders today protested at the sentencing yesterday of freelance Uzbek journalist Dilmurod Sayid (photo Ferghana.ru) to 12 and a half years in prison on a charge of “extortion” and “producing forged documents”. His lawyer, Ruhiddin Kamilov, said the court in the Toylok district in Samarkand province in the south of the country, had not produced enough evidence against the journalist, who continued to maintain his innocence. Kamilov also objected that the trial was held behind closed doors. “We are outraged at this heavy sentence handed down to Dilmurod Sayid”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “We urge the Uzbek authorities to release this journalist or at the least to deign to allow him a fair appeal,” it added. “Sayid has become the 8th journalist to be imprisoned in Uzbekistan and in the eyes of our organisation the real reasons for his conviction are not those given to the court, but are connected with his professional activities” “His case recalled that of Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov, a journalist who was sentenced in 2008 to ten years in jail for ‘use and trafficking of drugs’. Uzbekistan is tightening its grip on freedom of expression”, said the organisation. The journalist was arrested by agents of the Samarkand prosecutor on 22 February 2009. He was held first in Tashkent then in Samarkand after a woman reported him to the authorities for allegedly extorting a large sum of money (between 5,000 and 6,000 US dollars) from a businessman in the Samarkand region, allegedly asked him for money in exchange for agreeing not to write critical articles about him. Before becoming freelance and a member of the Uzbek non-governmental organisation Ezgulik, which defends the rights of farmers, Sayid worked for a number of different newspapers including Advokat-Press, Darachki, and Kihslok Hayoti. He had written a number of critical articles about the government and in particular the authorities in Samarkand whom he accused of impoverishing the region’s farmers. Uzbekistan is ranked 162nd out of 173 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ 2008 world press freedom index.