By Michael J. Jordan |
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the May 15, 2007 edition
BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA – Two years ago this week, Uzbekistan’s security forces opened fire on antigovernment demonstrators in the city of Andijan, killing 187 people. That’s the official number. The actual figure was likely hundreds more, say most observers.
With the anniversary of the “Andijan massacre,” one would expect Western journalists to flood into this ex-Soviet republic. They would be expected to write stories about how a predominantly Muslim nation in Central Asia that Washington had enlisted in its “War on Terror” had since clamped down on dissent.
They would likely note that Freedom House, the pro-democracy watchdog based in Washington, now ranks Uzbekistan as among “the worst of the worst” abusers of human rights and civil liberties in the world.
Instead, Uzbek President Islam Karimov has effectively gagged the media. Besides persecuting independent local journalists and blocking critical news websites, Tashkent has barred entry to most foreign correspondents.
“It’s easily explained: [Mr.] Karimov doesn’t want any foreign witness to what’s going on,” says Elsa Vidal, head of the Europe desk for the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.
Yet, Uzbeks are puzzled – and upset – by this lack of foreign coverage. Revealing the depth of their isolation, one Uzbek journalist asked me at a recent videoconference to mark World Press Freedom Day, “Why are no foreign journalists in Uzbekistan? Not interested?” (more…)