Uzbekistan: International seminar on freedom of the media is taking place under the veil of secrecy
Organized by the Institute for Civil Society Studies, Regional Politics Foundation, and the Uzbek National Center for Human Rights, the international seminar, «Freedom of the media in a modern democracy» opened in Tashkent on June 9. The Uzbek principal news agency, UzA, may never have planned to report on the event, even as it is in its second day and nearly finished.
According to Uzreport.com, the seminar attracted journalists and experts from Great Britain, Germany, Egypt, Israel, Indonesia, the People's Republic of China, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, South Korea, Russia, United States, Turkey, Ukraine, France, and Japan. Representatives of the diplomatic community and international organizations accredited in Uzbekistan are also present.
Opening the forum, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, called the seminar «an indication that Uzbekistan is embarked on the way to democratization and liberalization, that its government is doing all it can to remove the obstacles interfering with free development of the media. It's quite a timely undertaking for all of the region».
Haraszti revealed the OSCE plans to arrange a series of major events and forum on freedom of the media and expression later this year. «I think this seminar will provide a proper beginning for all other forums where problems with regard to freedom of the media will be discussed», the OSCE official said.
Some international human rights organization, meanwhile, questioned the validity and pressing nature of the scheduled issues to be discussed at the Tashkent forum. Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, Open Society Institute, and Reporters Without Frontiers released a joint statement branding the forum in the capital of Uzbekistan as a sham and a «gaunt specter» of what the European Union had actually planned.
Authors of the joint statement said whoever could provide a critical assessment of the state of affairs with freedom of the media and human rights in Uzbekistan are not on the list of participants, which only comprises those who guarantee that nothing untoward will happen during the event which many say has been staged and orchestrated by the Uzbek regime.
According to Uznews.net, the seminar is taking place behind a veil of secrecy. Its existence only known to the few journalists representing UzA, National TV and Radio Broadcasting Company, and Uzbekistan Today (Russian-English weekly which is known as Uzbekistan's showcase.)