(Washington, DC--June 3, 2004) The people living in a remote farming village in Uzbekistan's eastern Ferghana Valley have benefited directly from RFE/RL Uzbek Service coverage of their plight in early May. A report on a follow-up visit by its reporters to the village of Tuyul and the Ghaniobod collective farm, broadcast on May 25, reveals that Uzbek government officials reacting to the original RFE/RL report have begun to provide the residents of Tuyul improved access to drinking water, safer connections to the electrical grid and wage payments that had been delayed since September 2003.
During the May 25 broadcast, the head of the local community organization Erkin Qoziev tells RFE/RL Uzbek Service correspondent Sadriddin Ashurov that Ferghana Region Governor Alisher Otaboev visited Tuyul within days of the original broadcast and promised to help residents solve their problems. Tuyul resident Dilrabo Zokirova then confirms to Ashurov that the pledged help is being delivered: "After [the RFE/RL report] so many changes happened. They are installing electricity poles. We used to receive electricity via cables [in trees and on the ground from a newer neighborhood]. We also used to bring drinking water from the lower neighborhood. Now they are bringing water. They paid salary two times. The last time we received a salary was in 2003, for picking cotton. If these kinds of changes continue, we might receive payments for other months as well."
An 80-year old local religious leader echoed Zokirova's statements, telling the RFE/RL correspondent: "Thanks to [RFE/RL's] assistance we received help -- we needed drinking water and they are now installing a water pump. We are very happy. We used to stand in line for drinking water every evening."
The original RFE/RL Uzbek Service programs, broadcast on May 5 and May 8, came on the heels of a report broadcast on Uzbek Television's flagship "Akhborot" news program that showed video clips of farmers in Tuyul being paid their wages while still working in the cotton fields at Ghaniobod. An RFE/RL correspondent traveled to the village to investigate reports that the wage payment episode had been staged by the "Akhborot" film crew. The Uzbek Service programs exposed the faked wage payments with a balanced report that featured comments by the farmers involved in the "Akhborot" video, local officials such as Erkin Qoziev and the Uzbek Television correspondent responsible for the video report, Muhammadjon Obidov.
Since the Uzbek Service report was aired, Uzbek Television has twice broadcast condemnations of the RFE/RL report, demanding an apology for what it termed a "groundless" report by the Service. According to RFE/RL Uzbek Service Director Adolat Najimova and Tashkent Bureau chief Rahmatjon Kuldashev, interviews with the farmers involved--as well as signed affidavits--provide ample proof that the people seen in the Uzbek Television report had been forced to participate in the staged episode. Media research organizations such as the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting and Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations have reported on RFE/RL's coverage of the situation in Tuyul as well.
RFE/RL's Uzbek Service broadcasts six hours of programming a day to Uzbekistan, produced in Prague and the service's Tashkent Bureau and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, mediumwave and satellite broadcasts. Uzbek Service programming is also available via the Internet, at http://www.rferl.org
and at the service's website http://www.ozodlik.org