Uzbekistan: State officials use the Internet to leak what information they need known
Rumors that Rustam Azimov and nobody else is slated to become the next prime minister of Uzbekistan have been circulating for months now. Uzmetronom was the first to broach the matter of premier's replacement on February 21. Kazakhstan Today took it up. Ditto Lenta.ru. The government of Uzbekistan issued a denial, using INTERFAX news agency. Uzmetronom in the meantime kept sticking to its guns.
Ferghana.Ru news agency phoned Uzmetronom journalist Sergei Yezhkov.
Ferghana.Ru: Who are these enigmatic "confidential sources" you keep making references to?
Sergei Yezhkov: I never expose my sources, not even when whatever they say turns out to be wrong. That's my rule or principle if you prefer, and I have no intention of breaking it. The problem with Uzbekistan is that getting the necessary information from official channels is next to impossible.
Ferghana.Ru: Does it mean you trust unofficial channels?
Sergei Yezhkov: It was not the first occasion at all when senior officials said that the president sacked Prime Minister Shavkat Mirzieyev and replaced him with Azimov. I remember at least six episodes over the last month. We checked the information every time but failed to get a confirmation.
On February 20, we did buy it because the information had come practically simultaneously from several different structures. For some reason there is no need to dwell on here, we failed to contact the premier's press service for confirmation. (That's something we had always done in the past.) Well, it happens.
Ferghana.Ru: Who do you think needed this "leak"?
Sergei Yezhkov: There is a powerful faction here in Uzbekistan comprising influential and wealthy people who do not want Mirzieyev as premier. What information I'm privy to indicates that Mirzieyev has successfully avoided so far becoming indebted to anyone so that this someone could pull strings, you know.
Ferghana.Ru: So, he has enemies, right?
Sergei Yezhkov: He is a firm and resolute administrator and not everyone finds it to his liking. As far as the West is concerned, this so called "manual steering" is thoroughly ineffective. From the standpoint of Uzbek reality, however, it is the only acceptable and effective option.
Mirzieyev is not a public figure. Neither does he have a flair for a dramatic gesture or oratory. What counts, however, is that his brusque orders are carried out, without questions and fast. I'm not going to sing him hosannahs but he is the best efficient head of the government Uzbekistan has known in its years of sovereignty.
Ferghana.Ru: It is rumored in the meantime that it was Mirzieyev who orchestrated "neutralization" of some serious Uzbek businessmen who could have revived whole sectors of national industry with time - and probably would have...
Sergei Yezhkov: I cannot know it for sure, of course, but I do not think it was he. On the other hand, I'm prepared to accept that someone's commercial interests could be encroached on in the course of Mirzieyev's premiership.
Ferghana.Ru: When information is leaked to independent media outlets, it probably indicates that they command respect and wield clout.
Sergei Yezhkov: The way I perceive it, some serious infighting is under way in Uzbekistan nowadays. It involves senior state officials and inevitably includes people in uniforms. Absence of free media in the country prevents deterioration of this undercover struggle into an outright war of smearing materials. On the other hand, some of those involved in the power struggle know that Internet makes a perfect agency for leaks. Anonymity is guaranteed, after all, risks are minimal but rewards may be enormous.