- In a conversation with RFE's Uzbek service, Abdumalik Boboyev, an Uzbek journalist facing a possible eight-year prison sentence on four criminal charges, expressed little hope about his prospects for justice.
Speaking to RFE on October 6, Boboyev said that, “the government has all the evidence to charge me,” referring to what he says are flagrant efforts to build a case against him.
Boboyev is one of the few independent journalists in Uzbekistan and is a correspondent for the Voice of America's (VOA) Uzbek service.
On September 13, prosecutors charged Boboyev with defamation, insult, and preparing and disseminating information constituting a threat to public order and security. Each of these is ostensibly associated with his journalism and carries a criminal charge. A fourth charge relates to a routine border crossing from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan for which Boboyev failed to obtain an official stamp.
To corroborate the charges, authorities submitted his articles to several experts who have found their content defamatory. In a similar procedure, experts corroborated defamation charges against Uzbek photographer Umida Akhmedova in a high profile case last spring, calling her photos “barbarian.” In both cases, the experts were selected by government officials.
Asked if he believed the charges were a response to his journalism, Boboyev said that he believed the case was part of a larger calcuation by the Uzbek government to advance its political interests vis a vis the West. He added that he dreaded being used as a "bargaining chip" in this bigger game.
Boboyev is not currently in custody, but his passport was seized. His trial was postponed after his original lawyer dropped the case and is expected to take place with new counsel any day.
In a recent statement, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Ian Kelly protested the charges, saying they were “particularly worrying” and noting that the majority were directly related to Baboyev's work as a journalist. Reporters without Borders called the case “outrageous,” and numerous other international NGOs have protested the case.
Uzbekistan ranks among the “worst of the worst” human rights violators in the world, in no small part because of its fierce suppression of independent expression.
While “Andijan” has become shorthand for a brutal attack by government forces against peaceful demonstrators in 2005 that effectively ended civic activism and the independent press, the repression in Uzbekistan continues. Reporters without Borders documents 11 journalists currently detained in Uzbekistan's jails.
RFE's Uzbek service contributed to this report.