Just in time for the anniversary of the Andijan massacre eight years ago, Uzbekistan has embarked on a publicity campaign touting the country as a hot tourism and investment destination.
Advertisements began appearing May 9 on Euronews, the international broadcaster, highlighting Uzbekistan's "economic, investment and tourist potential." The 35-second-long "Welcome to Uzbekistan" advert is airing three times a day during prime-time on the English and Russian versions of the television channel, Uzreport.uz reported.
"Uzbekistan is the pearl of the East," a woman in the English version says over quick cuts of video featuring the country's architectural and cultural landmarks and the mainstays of the economy – cotton, gold mining, and textiles. "Uzbekistan is a country of big opportunities," she continues as a traditional mosaic spins dizzyingly in the background.
The campaign, sponsored in part by the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, Investment and Trade, is one of Uzbekistan’s first known attempts to reach an international audience using influential broadcasters. Yet, compared with slick campaigns by neighboring Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, the rough video looks amateurish.
It's a coincidence, perhaps, but the campaign coincides with the anniversary of what’s now known as the Andijan massacre. On May 13, 2005, Uzbek troops fired into a crowd of unarmed civilians in the eastern town of Andijan, killing hundreds. Marking the anniversary, which is ignored in Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch called the country “a human-rights disaster."
So it is no surprise that though the video “welcome” may sound genuine, the invitation doesn’t apply to everyone: UN special rapporteurs, international human rights groups and journalists are repeatedly refused entry to Uzbekistan, usually without a stated reason.