Uzbekistan: Another Journalist Arrested, Casting Doubt on Liberalizing Agenda

Security services in Uzbekistan have arrested another journalist, Hayot Nasreddinov, sowing doubt about the seriousness of the government’s unspoken intent to expand media freedoms.

Nasreddinov, 47, was arrested on October 20, but confirmation of the jailing has only been revealed in the past few days. The pattern matches what occurred with Bobomurod Abdullayev, who was taken into custody by the National Security Services, or SNB, in late October and held incognito for several days afterward.

News of Nasreddinov’s arrest was broken by fellow journalist Alexei Volosevich, who said that the reporter’s relatives have not been told what charges the security services are investigating.

“Nasreddinov is being held in a National Security Service holding cell on Gvardeisky street,” Volosevich wrote on his website.

Not much is known about Nasreddinov. In the 2000s, he worked for a while in the Tashkent branch of Iranian-owned Bank Saderat. Latterly, he has been employed as a teacher. But Nasreddinov was also involved in journalism and contributed as a blogger to RFE/RL’s Uzbek service, according to Shukhrat Babadjanov, a reporter with the broadcaster. In 2012-13, he worked as a freelancer for Moscow-based ferghana.ru, which published dozens of his articles.

Although the authorities have not divulged the motive for Nasreddinov’s arrest, some are speculating it is somehow connected with Abdullayev’s case.

In the first week of October, the security services revealed that they are investigating Abdullayev on suspicion of being the mind behind the pseudonymous online political commentator Usman Khaknazarov. Columns by this writer have been published sporadically and were constituted in large part of unsubstantiated gossip about supposed goings-on in the halls of power in Tashkent. The security services, however, argue that the writings were tantamount to a campaign to overthrow the government. Abdullayev’s colleagues reject absolutely that he was the author of the Usman Khaknazarov articles.

Jamshid Karimov, a journalist who was released from lengthy imprisonment in a punitive psychiatric institution earlier this year, described the Abdullayev case as puzzling.

“Why is it that the authorities are so shamelessly and cynically, in full view of the public at a time of supposed door-opening to the civilized world, going around arresting people?” Karimov said to EurasiaNet.org.

If the Abdullayev link is confirmed, Nasreddinov will be the fourth person to be arrested in connection with the case. Authorities have previously detained scholar Akrom Malikov and entrepreneurs Ravshanbek Salayev and Shavkatjon Olloyerov on suspicion of passing sensitive state information to Abdullayev.

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