25 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Friction between journalists and Uzbekistan's authorities is nothing new. But the recent arrest of Sobirjon Yoqubov (spelled "Yakubov" in many reports), a correspondent for the newspaper "Hurriyat," has sparked a reaction that goes beyond expressions of concern from international organizations. This time, some of the jailed journalist's colleagues in Uzbekistan have mobilized in his support.
Deputy Interior Minister Alisher Sharafuddinov held an unusual public meeting with the journalists in question on 15 April, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. While Sharafuddinov insisted that no crackdown was in the offing, he confirmed the arrest of a correspondent for the newspaper "Hurriyat."
According to a transcript of the meeting published by tribune.uz, Sharafuddinov said in response to a question from an RFE/RL Uzbek Service correspondent, "[Sobirjon Yoqubov] was arrested on 11 April, and on 14 April he was charged under Article 159." Article 159 of Uzbekistan's criminal code involves attempts to "overthrow the constitutional order." It is a staple of reports on the government's controversial fight against religious extremism, which critics have described as a campaign of repression that inflames, rather than contains, radicalism. The most common suspects in cases involving article 159 are alleged members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which espouses the establishment of an Islamic caliphate throughout Central Asia even as it officially eschews violence.
In an 18 April press release, the Committee to Protect Journalists quoted a March article Yoqubov wrote about the murder of Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Yoqubov argued that Gongadze's slaying "became a driving force [for Ukrainians] to realize the necessity of democratic reforms and freedom."
Pascale Bonnamour, head of the Europe desk for Reports Without Borders, told the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) on 20 April that Yakubov's arrest should be viewed in the context of recent events in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. "The fact that Yakubov is in prison serves as a warning to other journalists to monitor what they say," she said.
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