Uznews, Tashkent, 20 May 2009 – The world’s leading journalist organisations, journalists and human rights activists have written an appeal to Uzbek President Islam Karimov to ask him to help release Karakalpak journalist Salijon Abdurahmanov.
In all, 32 journalist organisations and over 70 journalists and human rights activists from the CIS, Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, South America and Australia signed the appeal in defence of Uznews.net’s correspondent in Karakalpakstan Salijon Abdurahmanov.
In the appeal they expressed confidence that Abdurahmanov was sentenced to 10 years in prison on trumped-up charges of attempting to sell drugs in October 2008 for his journalistic activities.
The Real Union of Journalists of Uzbekistan, which initiated the appeal, thanked all journalist organisations, journalists and human rights activists for their solidarity with Salijon Abdurahmanov.
The following is the text of the appeal and the names of organisations, journalists and human rights activists that signed it:
“Dear Mr Karimov,
We, the undersigned, journalists and human rights activists, ask you now when the international community is marking World Press Freedom Day on 3 May for your help with the release of the 58-year-old Karakalpak journalist Salijon Abdurahmanov from prison.
Abdurahmanov, who in the past used to work as Karakalpakstan correspondents of Radio Liberty, Voice of America, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and as correspondent of Uznews.net service in the past few years, was arrested on 7 June 2008 on trumped-up charges of storing and consuming drugs as packets of marijuana and opium were found in his car during a police search.
After a medical commission established that Abdurahmanov did not take any drug, investigators from Nukus police changed a charge of drug use to a more serious one – attempting to sell drugs in large consignment.
Abdurahmanov’s guilt was not proven either during the investigation or at the trial. To the defence’s questions “why didn’t police take fingerprints from the surface of the packets of drugs found and from the car?” investigators answered that the packets were covered in dust, while the car was left in the sun for a long time.
In general, the investigators admitted that there had been no reason for sentencing Abdurahmanov on this charge; moreover, they did not even try to conceal their interest in his journalistic activities: they seized his computer, all books and periodicals in his house, although all this seemingly had nothing to do with the charge of selling drugs.
In October 2008, Salijon Abdurahmanov was sentenced to 10 years in prison and has since been serving his term in Karshi’s prison.
Mr President, jailing innocent people does not benefit the reputation of the country you govern, but it undermines people’s trust in the government and sows hopelessness, pessimism and apathy among people, sometimes instilling mistrust and radicalism in some of them.
Mr President, only at the end of April you took part in the summit of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea in Almaty. You are very well aware of the appalling conditions of the environmental disaster in which Karakalpakstan is living and the gravest consequences of the drying Aral Sea its people are facing now.
Salijon Abdurahmanov was the only independent correspondent to cover the whole of Karakalpakstan whose people have already lost the sea, fish, jobs, prosperity and health and are now losing their last hope for the future.
Articles, written by Abdurahmanov, talk about the problems of people living in the Aral Sea region, a country of salt, and help them to be heard. These articles could help your subordinates draft government policy in Karakalpakstan.
Salijon Abdurahmanov has pursued only one aim – turning his country – Uzbekistan – into the best place to live on Earth.
Mr Karimov, please help the release of Abdurahmanov when the world is marking World Press Freedom Day for the 15th time.
Prison is not a place for honest law-obeying people and the imprisonment of innocent people does not only damage the victims of abuse but also the foundations of the country, its present and future.
Adil Soz International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, Kazakhstan
Algerian Centre for the Defence and Promotion of Press Freedom (CALP), Algeria
Article 19 (A19), UK
Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI), Brazil
Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), Serbia
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
Cartoonists Rights Network, International (CRNI), USA
Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), Nepal
Centre for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), USA
Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association, (EFJA), Ethiopia
Freedom House, USA
Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP), Colombia
Independent Journalism Centre (IJC), Moldova
Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna -TR), Turkey
Institute of Mass Information (IMI), Ukraine
Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information (ISAI), Indonesia
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), Peru
Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Ghana
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia
Media Watch, Bangladesh
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d’édition et de creation (OLPEC), Tunisia
Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Fiji Islands
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), France
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Thailand
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), USA
Oleg Orlov, chairman of the Council of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, Russia
Galima Bukharbaeva, editor-in-chief of Uznews.net, chairwoman of the Real Union of Journalists of Uzbekistan
Svetlana Gannushkina, chairwoman of the Civil Assistance Committee, Russia
Andrew Stroehlein, media director, International Crisis Group
Nina Ognianova, Europe and Central Asia programme coordinators, the Committee to Protect Journalists, USA
Muzaffar Suleymanov, the Committee to Protect Journalists, USA
Tamara Kaleyeva, president of the Adil Soz International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, Kazakhstan
Paula Schriefer, Freedom House, USA
Karin Karlekar, Freedom House, USA
Tamara Balavadze, Postfactum Association of Journalists, Georgia
Dinara Oshurakhunova, Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, Kyrgyzstan
Shahida Yakub, Uzbekistan Initiative, UK
Amie Joof, Radio Alternative Voice for Gambians, Senegal
Tamara Chikunova, Mothers against the Death Penalty and Torture in Uzbekistan
Talib Yakubov, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan
Mutabar Tajibayeva, Club of Fiery Hearts, Uzbekistan
Vitality Ponamarev, Memorial Human Rights Centre, Russia
Daniil Kislov, editor-in-chief of Ferghana.ru
David Schraven, Die Welt newspaper, Ruhrbaron blog
Annika Joeres, Die Frankfurter Rundschau
Galina Petriashvili, president of Gender Media Caucasus Association of Journalists, Georgia
Paul Bartlett, British journalist
Joanna Lillis, British journalist, eurasianet.org
Janet Barrier, British journalist
Elin Johnsson, Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company
Natalia Antelava, BBC correspondent in Beirut
Simon Ostrovsky, journalist
Henrietta Foster, British journalist
Dickon Le Marchant, British journalist
Tengiz Ibragimov, Kazakh journalist
Rozlana Taukina, president of the Association of Central Asian Independent Media, Kazakhstan
Galina Dyrdina, editor-in-chief of Fokus newspaper, Kazakhstan
Andrey Sviridov, Journalists in Disaster Public Fund, Kazakhstan
Sergey Duvanov, Kazakh independent journalist
Igor Vinyavskiy, editor-in-chief, Vzglyad newspaper, Kazakshtan
Nazira Darimbet, editor-in-chief of Azat newspaper, Kazakhstan
Vladimir Radionov, deputy editor-in-chief of Alga newspaper, Kazakhstan,
Ryspek Sarsenbayev, editor-in-chief of Zhas Alash newspaper, Kazakhstan,
Gulzhan Yergaliyeva, editor-in-chief of Svovoda Slova newspaper, Kazakhstan
Pahlavon Turgunov, BBC Uzbek Service, UK
Odil Ruzaliyev, correspondent of Voice of America, USA
Batiyer Hamrayev, human rights activist, Uzbekistan
Marcus Bensmann, German journalist
Kudrat Babajanov, editor of Uznews.net
Masha Novikova, journalist from the Netherlands
Aleksey Volosevich, independent journalist, Uzbekistan
Shuhrat Babajanov, Radio Liberty Uzbek Service, Czech Republic
Hurmat Babajanov, Radio Liberty Uzbek Service, Czech Republic
Zakirjon Ibragimov, independent journalist, Sweden
Vasiliy Markov, independent journalist, Uzbekistan
Said Abdurahimov, independent journalist, Uzbekistan
Abdumalik Bobayev, independent journalist, Uzbekistan
Yadgar Turlibekov, Uzbek human rights activist, USA
Gulam Umarov, Sunshine Coalition, Uzbekistan
Kazim Halilov, activist, Canada
Zafr Ikramov, activist, Canada
Anatoliy Serov, Ukraine
Asli Gunek, Turkey
Mehmet Yakun, Turkey
German journalists from the Journalistic Investigation network that has been demanding his release since his detentin:
Agata Kelava, NDR
Kay Dethlefs, NDR
Ksenija Kelana, NDR
Timo Großpietsch, NDR
Malte Kreutzfeldt, Die Tageszeitung
Florian Hassel, Die Frankfurter Rundschau
Martin Manthau, Institute of Journalism, Dortmund
Gabi Probst, RBB radio
Moritz Küpper, Capital weekly magazine
Wolfgang Messner, Stuttgarter Zeitung
Ralf Garmetter, independent journalist
Steffen Grimberg, Die Tageszeitung
Julia Salden, NDR
Ronald Buls, NDR
Spaci Tas, NDR
Edgar Kaminiski, NDR
Islam Shehina, independent journalist
Tina Groll Bremer, Die Tageszeitung
A.Rehmsmeier, independent journalist
O. Gala Bremer, Die Tageszeitung