Popular weekly closed in Uzbekistan
The Uzbek Press and Information Agency closed Odamlar Orasida or Among People, a popular weekly specializing in religious matters and enlightenment.
Odamlar Orasida Chief Editor Hairulla Hamidov was tight-lipped and only said "we disagreed with something that ate us." The official agency released a short statement attributing its decision to violations of the law on the media on the part of the weekly.
The first issue of Odamlar Orasida saw light of the day in February 2007. The newspaper promptly became popular and upped its print run to 24,000 - well above that official newspapers could boast of. Independent observer Anvar Muminov claims that it alone could provide the authorities with the excuse to close the weekly because "nothing may be permitted to stand in the way of the official newspapers of the parliament and the government."
It is whispered among local journalists and Odamlar Orasida fans that the weekly was closed for the arrogance. It brought up the subjects whose discussion in Uzbekistan is actively discouraged. For instance, it featured a piece by one Robert Mendelson of the United States who quoted one of his sources as saying that kids were dying of vaccination at Uzbek schools.
Moreover, the weekly was never shy to speak up on the subjects of homosexuality and prostitution. For example, it objected to the state of affairs when hookers felt at home right in the center of Tashkent despite the law. Odamlar Orasida personnel say it could incur the wrath of the officials too because they control this market.
It should be added that Mustakil Gazeta or Independent Newspaper was also closed in Uzbekistan a short while ago. The authorities said the newspaper had encountered financial difficulties and could function no longer. The newspaper meanwhile was in high demand, sponsored as it was by some prominent businessmen even including the former head of the Press and Information Agency.
These episodes reveal the true opinion of the Uzbek authorities on free media. It is common knowledge that all media outlets in the country are under tight control and popular Internet web sites are blocked by providers harassed by Uzbek secret services. All of that comes down to violation of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression and free access to and proliferation of information to all citizens of Uzbekistan.