State television in Uzbekistan has launched an attack on regional print and broadcast journalists in the Ferghana Valley for allegedly blackmailing entrepreneurs.
This week, O’zbekiston TV’s Oramizdagi Olgirlar (“Scroungers Among Us”) described cases of alleged extortion involving journalists from Namangan and Andijan regions. The report – posted on the station’s website on March 14 – featured interviews with alleged victims and other journalists condemning the "scroungers.”
"Such sleazy people should not be working in this profession," veteran journalist Gulomjon Akbarov said.
The 35-minute program pointed the finger at a magazine called Vatan Kozgusi (“Mirror of the Motherland”), alleging its journalists used fake press cards bearing the logos of international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It then cheered a court’s decision to jail the magazine’s chief editor, Ravshon Jumayev, for 10 ½ years for allegedly distributing his publication without registration. (The report did not mention him in connection with the blackmail allegations.)
EurasiaNet.org can find no reference to Jumayev elsewhere in the Uzbek press. Still, some Uzbek journalists may feel a bit threatened by the tale. Critical journalists have a tendency to disappear behind bars in Uzbekistan, a country that placed 164 out of 179 in Reporters Without Borders’ 2013 Press Freedom Index.
Is it possible that journalists are involved in extortion? Certainly. Is Uzbekistan state-run TV a good source? Well, if you think Valentine’s Day breeds terrorists, as they reported last month, then sure.