WASHINGTON -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Uzbek Service received a David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award at the 17th annual award ceremony held by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in Washington on November 14.
Uzbek service journalists were recognized for their tireless and courageous determination to break stories and provide Uzbekistan’s citizens with a means to speak truth to power, despite grave risks to themselves and their families.
In his acceptance remarks, Uzbek Service Director Alisher Siddique thanked the BBG for “your acknowledgement of our humble contribution to promoting democracy in one of the world's most unfree countries,” noting that the journalists of the Uzbek Service “have put everything on the line to demand freedom of speech, and to report the news that no one else would tell.”
The award is a testament to the Service’s pioneering efforts to use the latest digital platforms to break Uzbekistan’s information blockade. Despite not having a single “official” reporter in the country, Siddique said, the Service has built “an extensive network of citizen journalists via mobile apps to receive, develop, edit and distribute back to Uzbeks the news they need, about themselves, their communities, and their government.”
Siddique also noted how Uzbek Service reporting has “contributed to numerous changes in government policy over recent years,” including the Uzbek government’s decisions to abolish the death penalty and ban the use of child labor in the country’s cotton fields. Siddique added, “our investigative reporting revealed corruption that led to the arrest of Gulnara Karimova, the late president’s daughter. We were first to report the news about the death of President Islam Karimov” in September 2016.
In 169th place in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Uzbekistan’s media environment is tightly restricted. Authorities have complete control over traditional media and have tightened their grip on the Internet in recent years.
Aziz Yusupov, the brother of an RFE/RL Uzbek Service journalist, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2016 on drug-related charges in retaliation for his brother’s reporting.
The David Burke Awards recognize courage, integrity and professionalism of journalists from each of the BBG networks --Voice of America, RFE/RL, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí).
David W. Burke was the founding chairman and leader of the BBG for its first three years. He is the former President of CBS News and served as both Vice President and Executive Vice President of ABC News.