President Shavkat Mirziyoyev
Republic of Uzbekistan
Paris, 15 December 2016
Dear President Mirziyoyev,
When you were installed as the Republic of Uzbekistan’s president yesterday, you swore to “guarantee the rights and freedoms” of your fellow citizens. The international NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) takes this occasion to draw your attention to the deplorable state of media freedom in Uzbekistan and to express the hope that you will undertake the necessary reforms so that your fellow citizens may finally have access to full and diverse news coverage, independent media and a free Internet.
Your country is ranked 166th out of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index. No fewer than 10 journalists – including Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov, Dilmurod Sayid and Barno Khudoyorova – are currently imprisoned in connection with their reporting. Most of them have grave health problems. Two of them, Muhammad Bekjanov and Yusuf Ruzimuradov, are among the world’s longest held journalists. We ask you to ensure that they are freed without delay, along with all other prisoners of conscience.
The censorship to which the media are currently subjected prevents pluralism and deprives the public of its right to full and diverse news coverage. The foreign media have been banned from Uzbekistan since the events in Andijan in 2005 and the harassment of the few remaining critical journalists continues to mount.
Access to the main independent news websites, such as those of the Ferghana news agency and Radio Ozodlik, have long been blocked in Uzbekistan. The Internet traffic regulatory bodies, such as the Commission of Experts on Information and Mass Communication, act as censors. The leading VPNs are also inaccessible, as are many instant messaging apps. We urge you to lift the unwarranted restrictions on the media and Internet and to enforce article 67 of the Uzbek Constitution, which says, “the media must be free.”
We are fully aware of the major challenges facing Uzbekistan in the coming years. But news and information should not be feared. On the contrary, they are an essential condition for your country’s development. The Uzbek population has been deprived of its basic rights for too long and must finally be able to enjoy them freely.
I thank you in advance for the attention you give to this letter.