Wave of closures of Telegram news channels in Uzbekistan: RSF asks President Mirziyoyev to respond
Closures on a scale unseen in recent years: six bloggers were suddenly forced to stop their journalistic activities on their Telegram channels in southern Uzbekistan under pressure from the authorities. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges President Mirziyoyev to keep his promises and guarantee the development of an independent and free press.
“We fought for ‘freedom of expression’, but the situation has now become serious.” Bitter and dejected, blogger Azizbek Yazdurdiyev announced in his last message on 5 June that he was closing his news channel on Telegram. Under pressure from the authorities in the southern Uzbek province of Kashkadarya, five other bloggers were also forced to cease their activity on this social network. Overnight, nearly 80,000 followers were deprived of access to the local and cautiously critical information provided by these emerging media outlets.
“Uzbekistan is pulling out by the very roots its journalistic start-ups, and this is not the way to develop a pluralistic and independent press. These bloggers carry out independent media work, which is absolutely vital in certain remote regions, where they are often the only source of information. President Mirziyoyev publicly supported the journalists during a trip to the province of Kashkadarya earlier this year, even proposing to punish officials who put pressure on media outlets. RSF is asking him to put his money where his mouth is.
This sudden wave of repression comes after the arrest of three of the bloggers: A. Abdullaev, Maksud Muzaffarov and Umid Karimov. The three bloggers were sentenced to five days’ imprisonment after an unfair trial following a public roadside check and an attempt to uphold their rights with the police. The blogging community reacted strongly to this news, to which the authorities responded with pressure and threats of imprisonment.
Despite the partial liberalisation of this Central Asian country since the death of dictator Islam Karimov in 2016, journalism remains a dangerous business. The fate of Lolagul Kallykhanova, who dared to cover the uprisings in Karakalpakistan, is testimony to the continuing perilous state of press freedom.