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RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service: Radio Ozodlik

Radio Ozodlik relies on innovation and a wide network of local sources and platforms to uncover news and engage with audiences in one of the world’s most restrictive societies.

Fast Facts

  • Established in 1953, RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Radio Ozodlik, is an essential source of independent news and information for audiences that are otherwise dependent on official media. It is unique in bringing “accountability journalism” to its audiences, and in countering government disinformation and Russian propaganda inside the country.
  • The Service was forced to close its Tashkent bureau after reporting on the May 2005 massacre in Andijon. Operations were transferred to Prague, and remain there, while relying on local networks in every region of the country to help gather, verify, distribute, and share information. Ozodlik’s microsite, Telegram From You, posts content from these local networks to draw attention to the most acute challenges faced by Uzbeks and alert authorities to problems.
  • Telegram From You facilitates government accountability: In 2020, the country’s Prime Minister ordered his ministers, provincial heads, and state agencies to respond to and resolve issues brought up by the project. As a result, more than one hundred officials’ responses have been recorded to citizen journalist reports, and dozens of complaints have been investigated and resolved.
  • Investigative reporting is a focus for the Uzbek Service, targeting the corrupt practices of the country's top officials and their family members. Since 2014, Ozodlik has worked with the Sarajevo-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project to investigate cases of corruption and money laundering involving high-ranking officials.
  • In 2020, Ozodlik revealed how the Mayor of Tashkent steered government contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to private companied he owns. Ozodlik also exposed how authorities massively underreported the number of COVID-related deaths in the country.
  • The Uzbek Service is among Uzbekistan’s most influential voices in the debate over preserving historical and cultural sites, museums, and artworks, saving several sites from destruction and revealing the theft of artifacts from the country’s museums.
  • Access to Ozodlik’s website is blocked in Uzbekistan, despite a May 2019 decision by the government to allow access to other international news and NGO websites.
  • In its 2020 press freedom index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Uzbekistan 156th of 180 countries surveyed, noting that “surveillance, censorship and self-censorship are still present and the authorities maintain a significant level of control over the media.”

Impact

January – December, 2020

  • Website (Uzbek and Russian): 9.6 million visits; 24.9 million page views; 3.7 million unique visitors
  • Facebook (Uzbek and Russian)​: 218.5 million video views; 37 million engaged users; 761,000 followers
  • YouTube (Uzbek): 67.5 million views; 800,000 subscribers
  • Instagram (Uzbek and Russian)​: over 87.1 million video views; almost 176 million IGTV views; over 1.3 million followers​

Updated: March 2021

Facts & Stats about Uzbekistan

  • Population: 32.96 million (World Bank estimate, 2018)
  • Most Common Languages: Uzbek, Russian, Tajik, Kazakh
  • Press Freedom Index (Freedom House): Not Free, ranked 197 out of 198 (2017)
  • Press Freedom Index (RSF): 160 out of 180 (2019)
  • Corruption Index (Transparency Int.): 153 out of 180 (2019)
  • Global Peace Index (IES): 102 out of 163 (2019)
  • Human Rights Watch: Report on Uzbekistan (2019)
  • Amnesty International: Uzbekistan Report (2017/2018)

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