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Eight journalists are currently in prison in Uzbekistan, one of them, Djamshid Karimov, the head of state’s nephew, has been held in a psychiatric hospital against his will for more than two and a half years.
Despite this damning state of affairs, the European Union, as a result of a German initiative, has begun a process of rapprochement with Uzbekistan and voted for an easing of sanctions imposed after the Andijan massacres. The release of human rights defenders, such as Mutabar Tadjibaeva, in June 2008 has regularly been used to justify this new direction.
Also in June, correspondents for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty were publicly called traitors on a state-run television channel. Their identity, accompanied by photos and their addresses along with schools attended by their children were also made public. These accusations were particularly disturbing given that journalist Alisher Sayipov, who was shot dead in Osh, Kyrgyzstan in October 2007, had also been termed a traitor by official media shortly before his death. A second forum gathering representatives of the EU and Uzbekistan took place in October at the very moment when journalist Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov, a contributor to many independent media and websites, was being sentenced to ten years in prison, silencing one of the very few independent voices in Karakalpakstan in the west of the country. This was not enough to prevent the EU from agreeing a six-month extension to the lifting of sanctions.
The crackdown continued without faltering in the first quarter of 2009. Two independent journalists were arrested in February and in March the five founders of the scientific magazine Irmok were sentenced to between five and 12 years in prison. The magazine itself has been banned a few months previously. The five journalists are members of religious organisation, Nurcular, which is banned inside the country.
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