Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is relieved to learn that Yusuf Ruzimuradov, an Uzbek journalist who had been held for 19 years, was finally released on 22 February. RSF calls on the Uzbek authorities to free the nine other journalists still held in Uzbekistan.
Now aged 64, Ruzimuradov was one of the world’s longest held journalists. A reporter for Erk, then Uzbekistan’s leading opposition newspaper, he was arrested in 1999, tortured and convicted on a charge of conspiracy against the state, receiving a 15-year jail sentence that was extended at least twice.
“We are greatly relieved by Yusuf Ruzimuradov’s release, even if he should never have been imprisoned, and we urge the authorities to immediately free the nine other journalists and media workers who are wrongfully imprisoned in Uzbekistan,” RSF said.
Ruzimuradov is the latest in a series of journalists and human rights defenders to have been freed since President Islam Karimov’s death in August 2016.
The journalists include former Erk editor Muhammad Bekjanov, freed in February 2017 after being held for 18 years, Jamshid Karimov, released a month later after nearly 10 years in a psychiatric clinic, and Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov, freed in October 2017 after nine years in prison.
The journalists Bobomurod Abdullayev, Barno Khudoyorova and Gayrat Mikhliboyev and the blogger Hayot Nasriddinov continue to be jailed in connection with their reporting. Five other journalists who worked for the newspaper Irmok are also still held although their release was announced several months ago.
Uzbekistan is ranked 169th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.