THE UZBEK MASS MEDIA MODEL: ANALYSIS, OPINIONS, PROBLEMS
Alisher Juraev, Independent journalist (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)
Three Models—Three Different Ways
Despite the fact that at the beginning of the 1990s, the press in the Central Asian republics essentially started its development in the same way—from wilting socialism and acquiring independence by the new states—over time the paths of the regional mass media have gone their separate ways. And now, as director of the CIMERA project (Switzerland) Vicken Cheterian notes, three models of mass media have formed,1 which fully reflect the sociopolitical processes going on in these countries.
The first model, which can be called “authoritarian-democratic,” characterizes the state of the mass media in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Despite the fact that the Asian method of production and a despotic administration predominate in these states, signs of freedom of the press are nevertheless evident in them. The press plays the role of a “fourth power,” and even the most virulent adversaries of freedom and democratic reforms have to reckon with it. “In these countries, democracy is most vividly and efficiently manifested in the political and economic spheres, and private mass media, which present an alternative view to that promulgated by the state have appeared,” noted Mr. Cheterian. “This situation has helped to strengthen government institutions and the reforms. But since the mid-1990s, tendencies have been observed toward repression of independent opinions and persecution both of journalists and certain publications. The press is also feeling pressure from corrupted officials. Censorship is being carried out by certain individuals who do not want the mass media to shed light on the negative aspects of life for which they are responsible.”
The second model, called “post-conflict,” largely reflects the state of the mass media in Tajikistan after the end of the civil war. Here the press very deliberately, and not under pressure from the government, restricts certain statements and opinions, fearing that the mass media could instigate a new conflict. Journalists, of course, try to highlight the most important problems of everyday life, but in so doing, attempt to retain a balance of interests among all the strata and social groups of society, trying not to create friction among them, and especially not bring the publication “under fire.” There is no government censorship, but self-censorship is vividly manifested, that is, self-restriction of freedom of speech in the name of public peace. And this trend will be retained until the republic gets economically back “on its feet” and conducts political reform.
The third model—“total control”—exists in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Whereby in the first of these two countries, there are no independent mass media at all, since the head of state is their founder, and they are all controlled by the government. Uzbekistan theoretically has independent mass media, which are mostly nongovernment publications or television and radio stations. But to claim that they are independent is a gross misunderstanding of the current situation. All the press is controlled by the government, preliminary censorship is in effect, and there is no printing service market, since this field is considered ideological, and as such is an extremely important propaganda tool of the current regime. In this sense, the mass media in both states are similar to each other, although some might say that the working conditions for journalists in Uzbekistan are nevertheless more lenient. “This model cannot be stable or long-term,” specifies expert Cheterian. “At present in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the population does not receive the necessary amount of objective information on the events going on in the region, and this is to the republics’ detriment.”
These models can be assessed based on the results of a sociological poll conducted among journalists and independent mass media experts. The assessment ranged from “0” (lack of freedom in covering human political rights) to “5” (complete freedom), and the average arithmetical index is presented (see the table).
Degree of Freedom of Mass Media in Central Asian States, Expert Opinion2
Freedom of speech and expressing an opinion different from the government’s
Protection of society’s democratic values and ideals
Control over how the state and its officials perform their duties and over execution of the laws adopted
Protection of human rights
As can be seen from the table, Kazakhstan has the highest level of mass media freedom and participation in the country’s sociopolitical life, while the most unpropitious situation is in Uzbekistan. “Although the practical situation with the mass media in Uzbekistan falls far short of democratic norms,” notes a journalism expert, Alisher Taksanov, “it must be said that in neighboring Turkmenistan, the mass media situation is even worse.” Indeed, in Turkmenistan, the head of state, Saparmurad Niyazov, is the owner of all the printed and electronic mass media. All publications are financed by the state, and, of course, the press only expresses the opinion of the ruling regime. And not only because “he who pays orders the music,” but also because the state is the monopoly owner of all mass media and all information. “There can be no talk of pluralism in authoritarian states,” adds Taksanov. “The regime simply cannot accept another outlook which does not fall under the precepts put forward by the authorities. But the most surprising thing is that pressure on the mass media is carried out as though the country were a democracy, since direct, that is, open coercion does not occur. Everything is resolved in secret, at times by one telephone call. A contract with a printing house can be terminated, the delivery of printing paper delayed, prices on the transportation or dissemination of printed matter raised, or the tax service set against a publication, and all of this is within the framework of the law.”
The Current State of the Mass Media in Uzbekistan
How many mass media are there in the republic now? At the beginning of 1999, the country’s president, Islam Karimov, announced the following figures: 490 newspapers and 138 magazines.3 According to the data of the republic’s National Press Center, as of 10 January 2001, 507 newspapers, 157 magazines, four information agencies, and 51 electronic mass media (television and radio) were registered in Uzbekistan, making a total of 719 mass media. An official from the State Printing Committee presented the following figures by way of comparison: in 1990, on the eve of the adoption of Uzbekistan’s declaration of independence, approximately 300 newspapers and 60 magazines were published in the republic, and there was one information agency in operation (UzTAG). That is, during the years of independence, the total number of newspapers has increased by approximately 60% and the number of magazines has more than doubled. But according to the official statistics of 1990, these data are clearly artificially low.
Of the 507 newspapers published in the country, 77 are republic-level, 162 regional, 47 urban, 176 district, and 45 are large-circulation. According to form of ownership, 394 are state-owned, 63 public, and 50 other (in particular, commercial and religious), whereby 133 are departmental. As for journals, 99 of them are state-owned, 34 public, and 27 other publications. We will note that in 1990, there were 17 republic-level newspapers (their total one-time circulation amounted to 3.9 million copies), 20 regional (778,000 copies), 177 city and district (1.7 million copies), 90 local and put out by collective farms (258,000 copies), and 4 published in the Karakalpak Autonomous Republic (151,000 copies).4
Printed matter is multinational, since there are publications not only in the state, Uzbek, language, but also in Russian, English, Kazakh, Tajik, Karakalpak, Jewish, and Korean. Taking into account that more than 80% of the population consists of Uzbeks, it goes without saying that most of the mass media come out in the state language, which, incidentally, is regulated by the republican Law on the State Language. Experts specify that this largely affects mass media in the regions and districts where most residents of the republic live and the population tends to be of the same nationality. On the other hand, periodicals intended for a republic-wide audience are generally multilingual.
As the experts note, the largest group in terms of number of publications comprises sociopolitical newspapers intended for the mass reader, which inform the population of all aspects of life in the republic, region, city, and district (Khalk suzi, Narodnoe slovo, Toshkent khakikati, Tashkentskaia pravda), newspapers put out by the regional, city, and district executive power structures (khokimiats), and others.
The second group consists of publications issued by party and public organizations which have an official status (the newspapers Uzbekiston ovozi, Golos Uzbekistana, Milliy tiklanish, Adolat, and others).
The third group includes so-called general cultural publications, for example, those which cover literary art, cultural, and educational topics. They focus on aspects of society’s humanitarian and spiritual life (for example, the newspapers Uzbekiston adabieti va sanati, Uchitel Uzbekistana, Oila va jamiat, and many more).
Religious publications should also be mentioned, such as the Muslim newspaper Islom nuri and the magazine Khidoiat, as well as the Orthodox Christian newspaper Slovo zhizni. Moreover, there are several hefty periodicals which cover problems relating to scientific development, including fundamental studies and technology, as well as sectoral publications which provide information on specific aspects of the national economy. Recently, the number of newspapers and journals aimed at assisting the development of business, strengthening interstate economic ties, and reinforcing mutually advantageous economic trade cooperation between sovereign states has been growing. They include the newspapers Khamkor, Business Partner, Delovoi partner Uzbekistana, Mulkdor, and others, as well as the magazines Bozor, pul va kredit, Rynok, dengi i kredit, Obzor finansovogo rynka, and so on.
Information agencies operate in the republic, the National Agency of Uzbekistan (UzA), Zhakhon—under the Foreign Ministry, nongovernment—Turkiston-Press, the Karakalpak Agency, and the Information Center of the republic’s presidential apparatus. In addition, information centers have been created under other ministries and departments, as well as at enterprises. Periodical printed mass media are also published jointly with foreign enterprises. For example, the magazine Film’S, a publication of the Uzbek-Indian joint venture Samandar, the bulletin British American Tobacco Uzbekiston yangiliklari is put out by an Uzbek-British company, and Rastr is a publication by an Uzbek-British joint publication-printing venture of the same name.
As for electronic mass media, at the beginning of 2001, there were 30 television studios and television companies, 15 television-radio companies, and six radio stations in the republic. In terms of form of ownership, 25 of them are state-owned and 26 are commercial (14 of which are private, founded by physical entities, i.e. citizens of the republic, through corresponding companies or directly). In addition, two television and radio organizations have licenses, whose founders are joint ventures (for example, the founder of television studio Kamalak-TV is the Uzbek-American joint venture Kamalak, and of radio station Sezam, the Uzbek-American joint venture Rubicon Radio Systems).
Of course, the legislative base created during the years of independence has promoted the development of the mass media. This in particular applies to the Law on Mass Media (adopted in June 1991), and its new version (with amendments) in December 1997, as well as the Cabinet of Ministers’ resolution On the Registration Procedure for Mass Media in the Republic of Uzbekistan (No. 160, 15 April, 1998). Other laws should also be mentioned: On the Protection of the Professional Activity of the Journalist (April 1997), On Guarantees and Freedom of Access to Information (April 1997), On Publishing Activity (August 1996), and on 11 August, 1997 a government resolution was issued On Regulating Questions Relating to Publishing Activity in the Republic of Uzbekistan (No. 393). A large role in regulating the work of the mass media is also played by the laws On Author’s Rights and Related Rights (August 1996) and On Advertising (December 1998).
Normative acts have also been adopted which envisage the working procedure for foreign journalists in the republic. For example, Basic Rules Regulating the Professional Activity of Mass Media Correspondents from Foreign Countries in the Republic of Uzbekistan have been drawn up, on the basis of which, on 1 February, 1995, the Foreign Ministry approved the Provision on the Procedure for the Reciprocal and Gradual Accreditation of Representatives of Foreign Mass Media under the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The following foreign information agencies are accredited in the country: Reuters and BBC World Service—Great Britain, France-Press—France, ITAR-TASS, RIA Novosti, Interfax—Russia, Xinhua—China, Ikhlass and Anatolia News—Turkey, the State Telegraph Agency of Azerbaijan, and Radio Ozodlik (Freedom) and Voice of America—the U.S.
Thus, statistics show an apparently favorable mass media situation in the republic. But what is the case in reality?
Legal Practice in Reference to the Mass Media
At the first meeting of the first session of the republic’s Olii Majlis of the second convocation, President Islam Karimov noted among the main reform tasks in the political sphere the need to ensure “pluralism or the diversity of opinions, and the freedom to express them.” He went on to add, “I want to emphasize again and again that in our society, the mass media should be an independent, real (fourth) power, and the most efficacious tool for implementing citizens’ political freedoms. This primarily concerns the right to freely express one’s opinion, obtain information, and actively participate in discussing the most important projects of state and social development.”5 In principle, the head of state did not say anything new, all these “proposals” are set forth in the Constitution (1994). For example, Art 29 states: “…each person has the right to freedom of thought, speech, and conviction. Each person has the right to look for, obtain, and disseminate any information, apart from that aimed against the existing constitutional system, or that which falls under other restrictions set forth by the law.” Art 67 notes: “Mass media are free and shall act in keeping with the law.”
But what happens in practice? For example, the fourth issue of Central Asia and the Caucasus for 2001, published in Sweden, was banned in the republic. After reading it, experts from the Minister of Culture came to the following conclusion: “The facts are clearly misrepresented, they are interpreted by the authors as they please, thus distorting reality, and do not promote ethnic and inter-confessional consent in the Republic of Uzbekistan.”6
The censors were particularly bothered by four quotes in which a different opinion was presented on some current events in the life of Uzbekistan. Here are two of them: the article “An Island of Democracy? Local Reforms in Kyrgyzstan 1990-2000” by Professor Kimitaka Matsuzato (Japan) states: “…at least the human rights situation is better in Kyrgyzstan than in Uzbekistan.” In another article called “The Jews of Uzbekistan—the End of the Epoch,” Doctor of Sociology Mikhail Degtiar (U.S.) writes about the Great Amir Timur: “This conqueror, famous for his ruthlessness, violence, destruction and extermination of millions of people…” That is, in reality there is not the pluralism of opinion that the president advocated, since censorship treats any dissidence as a violation of the legislation.
Today, there are several levels of censorship. It is carried out by the Main Inspection Service for the Protection of State Secrets in Print (Uzlit). It is this agency that controls all the newspaper and magazine articles. In addition, censorship is carried out of publications put out by certain departments before they are published. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations controls the newspaper Delovoi partner Uzbekistana. Departments also carry out censorship which are instructed to do so by the law, for example, the Ministry of Culture, on the basis of a law which regulates the import and export of cultural valuables. But the above-mentioned case leaves no uncertainty about what this kind of expert examination is leading to. If an Uzlit censor has some doubt about an article, he sends it to a department which can draw up an “expert” conclusion.
For example, with respect to foreign political relations, such a conclusion is given by the Foreign Ministry, in the aviation industry, it is given by the national company Uzbekiston khavo yullari, on foreign economic relations, by the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, on the law enforcement system, by the Interior Ministry or prosecutor’s office, and so on. Of course, these agencies frequently have their own opinion on particular events and ban the publication of information that presents a different view. In this respect, even journalist investigations become either extremely problematic or impossible.
Recently, many articles, like the mass media themselves, are being considered from the point of view of their correspondence to the ideology of state independence. But the constitution says: “No ideology can be established as the state ideology.” So this approach creates a host of problems for the press and arouses confusion among the population, since the so-called “ideology of state independence” is already being implemented at the government level. For example, the Ministry of Education also decided to don the censor’s gown. In July 2000, it issued an order (No. 84), according to which “textbooks which do not meet the state standard ... and literature against the national ideology” were to be confiscated and destroyed, as well as most works “published before 1993.” In secondary school No. 21 of the Samarkand District alone, 2,336 copies of textbooks and 1,835 copies of literary works were confiscated, among which were many publications in the Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian languages. The list of books subject to destruction included works by Daniel Defoe, Prosper Mérimée, Honoré de Balzac, Nikolai Gogol, Alexander Pushkin, Sergei Yesenin, George Byron, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Nosov, Maxim Gorky, Charles Perrault, Al-Beruni, Sadriddin Ayni, Anatoli Alexin, M. Bakhti, Ts. Karimzoda, and others. Astonishingly, among the confiscated literature were such popular books as The Thousand and One Nights, Know-Nothing on the Moon, Little Red Riding-Hood, and Robinson Crusoe, since, in the opinion of the initiators of this “campaign,” these books “presented a threat to the people of the republic and to the spiritual and moral character of the growing population, and they did not express the idea of Uzbekistan’s independence.”
“This pseudo-ideology is dealing a serious blow to the political activity of the mass media,” maintains sociologist Bakhodir Musaev, “any publication which does not correspond to it can be closed in a jiffy. But newspapers which present this ideology are gray, boring, uninteresting, and do not appeal to consumers.” In this respect, many mass media do not enjoy demand on the information market. Censorship has its own set of laws, and the market an entirely different set. But the reader, as well as the publisher, is suffering from this censorship. A sociological survey conducted by the author in December 2000 among the residents of Tashkent revealed that 45% of the respondents do not like the way the local press covers the country’s economic and political problems. The insipidness of publications, their one-sidedness, pretentiousness, and eulogizing of the powers that be are making consumers suspicious of the published information. Seventy-nine percent of the respondents do not believe the statistics. Therefore, 87% of those surveyed would like to obtain information from independent sources, in particular, through the Internet or from foreign publications.
An Analysis of Uzbek Laws on Mass Media in the Context of Foreign Laws
The laws on mass media adopted in most CIS countries contain a multitude of contradictions which reduce the efficacy of the press’s activity. At times, such contradictions are created intentionally. For example, Art 16 of the Uzbekistan Law on Mass Media says that “the broadcasting or publication of a particular form of mass media can be stopped on a decision by the founder or registering agency, or by the court.”7 If the status of founder or the court is considered, this demand is extremely objective, since the founder has the right to create, abolish, or temporarily halt the output of his publication, and the court has the right (and the obligation) to objectively and without prejudice review the activity of the mass media. As expert Karim Bakhriev notes, “objections on several legal and actual circumstances are raised by putting the registering agency on the same footing as the founder.”8
Of course, in this case, a government agency can quite easily abuse the rights of an independent form of mass media which covers events from the perspective of political pluralism. It should be noted that from the legal viewpoint, this provision of the law contradicts the Constitution. For example, Part 2 of Art 19 states: “Citizen rights and freedoms set forth in the Constitution and laws are inviolable, and no one has the right to deny or restrict them without intervention by a court.”
This norm is substantiated in a more civilized and democratic way in the laws on mass media of other states. For example, Art 16 of the Russian Federation Law on Mass Media states: “The activity of mass media may be ceased or halted only on a decision by the founder or the court under civil legal proceedings on a claim instigated by the registering agency or the Russian Ministry of Press and Information.”9 It is obvious from this that the registering agency does not have the right to independently close a form of mass media, it may only submit a claim to the judicial departments, where during the investigation of all the “pros” and “cons” the state’s complaints about the form of mass media in question will be taken into account.
Art 29.1 of Chapter VII of the Armenian Law on Mass Media asserts: “The activity of a form of mass media may be ceased or halted on a decision by the registering agency, founder, or court under civil legal proceedings on a claim instigated by the registering agency.” This provision seems to be equivalent to the provision in Uzbek legislation on the role of the registering agency in the fate of mass media. But Point 2 of the same article goes on to specify: “The registering agency may cease activity and annul the registration of a form of mass media without appealing to court if the next issue of the particular mass media has not come out for more than a year.” That is, the persecution of a form of mass media is impossible for political reasons. Point 6 of the same article says: “The court shall have the right to cease the activity of any form of mass media.”10 Thus, the Armenian law clearly follows democratic principles for the functioning of the press.
The Kyrgyzstan Law on Mass Media does not say anything at all about the right of the registering agency to close certain publications. Art 8 sets forth: “The activity of a form of mass media may be ceased or halted on a decision by the founder or court in the event of a violation of the demands of this law.”11 The same thing is set forth in Art 13.1 of the Kazakhstan Law on Mass Media: “The issue (broadcast) of a form of mass media may be halted or ceased on a decision by the owner or the court.”12
As Karim Bakhriev notes, the Constitution Court should pay attention to the non-correlation which has developed in Uzbekistan’s legislative practice and eliminate the contradiction between the law on mass media and the country’s Basic Law.
I would also like to discuss the problems arising during the founding of mass media. There are discrepancies on this question in the legislation of CIS countries, due to which the status and public significance of the mass media are changing, and the possibility of attracting investments and introducing new technology is being undermined. Art 11 of the Uzbekistan law on mass media says that “juridical and physical entities of the Republic of Uzbekistan have the right to found mass media. A form of mass media may also be instituted by several founders.” At the same time, Art 15 of this law envisages that registration of a form of mass media may be denied if “the founder or one of the founders of the particular mass media, or the publisher, lives outside the Republic of Uzbekistan.” In this way, the matter exclusively concerns residents. Essentially it turns out that if a founder is a citizen of the republic, but lives permanently beyond its borders, he is denied this right. This contradicts Art 10 of the Constitution, which stipulates: “All citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan have the same rights and freedoms and are equal before the law…” Further, Art 22 states: “The Republic of Uzbekistan guarantees legal protection and patronage to its citizens both on the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan and beyond its borders.”
Apparently, the interpretation of the law on mass media should be understood in the political sense. In a private conversation, a State Printing Committee official said that founders who live outside the country might bring an alien ideology into Uzbekistan, undermine the foundations of the state, and refuse to obey the republic’s laws. This kind of rubbish can only be heard from people who have a poor understanding of the law. For Art 6 of the law on mass media says: “Using mass media to bring about a coercive change in the existing constitutional system or the territorial integrity of the Republic of Uzbekistan, to promulgate war, violence, brutality, or national, racial and religious hostility, to disclose a state or other law-protected secret, or to commit other acts entailing criminal liability shall be prohibited.” If a founder who lives outside Uzbekistan does not intend to use the form of mass media he created for these purpose, other reasons cannot serve as grounds to deny founding of the aforesaid form of mass media. Spreading the ideology of national independence in society is not a legislative act, and this means it cannot be cited when deciding whether or not to issue a license for a form of mass media.
In some countries, another interpretation on founders is stipulated. For example, in the Russian law on mass media (Art 7), it is determined that a founder may not be “the citizen of another state or a stateless citizen who does not live permanently in the Russian Federation.”
The provision on founder in the Georgian Law on Mass Media is interesting. Chapter 3.10 says: “A form of mass media may be founded by one or several juridical or physical entities (founders).” Chapter 4.13 stipulates who may be a founder (owner), but the law does not restrict his whereabouts, and moreover permits mass media to be founded by foreigners. Another provision is also interesting, which is noted in Point 13: “To avoid restricting pluralism … a founder (owner) or distributor of electronic means (radio or television company) may not be a juridical or physical entity whose activity is related to political propaganda (state power structure, political association, politician).”
This extremely progressive precept is also stipulated in the laws of other countries. For example, the Armenian law (Art 5.2) envisages that “a state structure does not have the right to found a form of mass media, apart from those founded by legislative, executive or judicial power structures exclusively for the publication of their official reports and information, normative or other acts.” This essentially prevents the state from monopolizing information for the purpose of concealing particular events from the people. The only thing the Armenian law permits in this respect is the following: “state structures may purchase the shares of joint-stock companies which are the founders of mass media. In so doing, the state’s share may not exceed 30% of the authorized fund of the particular joint-stock company.” Thus, the normative act restricts the state’s influence on mass media.
With respect to mass media in Uzbekistan, the problem of censorship should be given particular attention. As we mentioned above, Art 67 of the Constitution notes that “censorship shall not be permitted.” And the Law on Mass Media (Art 4) sets forth: “Censorship shall not be permitted in the Republic of Uzbekistan. No one shall have the right to demand that a journalist have his reports and information approved in advance, or demand that he change a text or completely remove information or a statement from a program (the air).” This provision is repeated in Art 4 of the Law on the Protection of the Professional Activity of the Journalist.13 The same law (Art 14) notes that “the officials of state structures, citizen self-government structures, public associations, enterprises and institutions and organizations are liable for any censorship carried out.” Georgian legislation notes: “Censorship of mass media is prohibited, that is, demanding that an editorial board have information approved in advance, as well as the creation and financing of those organizations, institutions, agencies and officials whose job is to carry out censorship.” And these demands are also set forth in the corresponding Russian law (Art 3), but it is stipulated that preliminary consent may be obtained from the author or person being interviewed. And Art 1 of the Law on Mass Media of Kyrgyzstan does not permit censorship.
The Armenian law on the press (Art 1) emphasizes: “Censorship, just as prohibiting the distribution of reports or information, or their individual parts, is forbidden.” Moreover, an essentially important and democratically correct approach is envisaged: “Any contradictions or doubts arising during the settlement of disputes relating to mass media shall be resolved in favor of the principles of freedom of speech.” And although the author of this article did not see a similar provision in a single legislative act of other CIS countries, all the aforesaid shows that censorship is prohibited by the state in the Commonwealth countries. And of course, the government is obliged to observe these normative demands.
But what happens in practice? For example, there is censorship in Uzbekistan, and it is carried out by the Main Inspection Service for the Protection of State Secrets in Print. As paradoxical as it may seem, its activity is regulated by the law. For example, the Constitution (Art 29) says: “The freedom of opinions and their expression may be restricted by the law for keeping a state or other secret.” According to Art 162 of the Criminal Code, disclosing or transferring state secrets is punished by imprisonment from three to five years. In order to regulate information constituting a state secret, Art 5 of the Law on Protection of State Secrets stipulates that “the classification and disclosure of information shall be conducted pursuant to this law, the provision on procedures for determining and establishing the degree of secrecy of information, and the list of information subject to classification in the Republic of Uzbekistan, approved by the Uzbekistan Cabinet of Ministers.” “Theoretically, the Main Inspection Service should ensure that secrets do not leave the safe,” says a journalist working for the newspaper Tashkentskaia pravda, “but essentially any secret which reaches the editorial board ceases to be such. In five minutes, it will be on the Internet, and censorship can only prohibit its publication in Uzbekistan. But the rest of the world will learn about it…”
Unfortunately, no ordinary journalist has ever seen these provisions, and any attempt to obtain them from the Main Inspection Service has been in vain. But the country’s Constitution (Art 15) says that “not one law or other normative act may contradict the norms and principles of the Constitution.” As a result, in the opinion of journalists, Uzlit abuses its status when it removes information from a newspaper which does not constitute a secret. At times, this official zeal gets ridiculous, for example, the censors removed some information on Kyrgyzstan, motivating this decision by the fact that this state ... does not exist. At times, it confiscates any mention of Uzbekistan’s neighbors, as well as articles which contain the words, Soviet Union, CPSU, Lenin, Stalin, pioneer, Komsomol member, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, collective farm, state farm, or the Great Patriotic War. Caricatures, jokes, lampoons, crosswords, and even photographs of war veterans wearing Soviet decorations find themselves on the censor’s chopping board. As expert Bakhriev notes, “the preliminary checking of mass media information under the pretext of protecting state secrets is in no way and cannot be a means for protecting these secrets, it is a means of manipulation, a weapon of struggle against obvious truths. If we take even a brief glimpse at what censorship removes from newspapers or the air, it is easy to convince ourselves of this. Cases of corruption, deterioration of the environment, the widening gap between the rich and poor, the increase in unemployment, and so on and so forth, this information cannot be considered a ‘state secret.’ If all this information is indeed a secret for the state, it has long not been such for the population.”14
Let us take another look at the data of the sociological survey conducted by the author. For example, to the question “According to the Uzbekistan Constitution, censorship in the republic is prohibited. Is this so in practice?”, 74% of the respondents replied in the affirmative, 21%—in the negative, and 5% did not respond. It is astonishing, but 54% of those surveyed believe that censorship of the mass media is necessary, and only 25% were against it. What motives guided those 54% respondents who replied that censorship of the mass media is necessary? Twenty-seven percent of them claimed that this was the way to maintain public peace, 15% said it was necessary to prevent dissemination of a state secret, 1.3% believe it controls public opinion, 0.7% maintain it helps founders to conduct their policy in the mass media, 4% said it saves journalists or editorial boards from having to answer for their mistakes, and 11% maintain it prevents the dissemination of one-sided views and newspapers from becoming gutter press. The rest could not find an argument for their viewpoint.
In this way, the mass media in Uzbekistan are still loyal to the Soviet system, that is, it is not the people and the laws, but specific individuals who are regulating the information sphere and determining who can and who cannot know the truth.
1 From a speech by Vicken Cheterian at the regional conference “Future of the Central Asian States: Together or…” held on 26-28 June, 2001 in Bishkek.
2 The poll was conducted by a private group called Zerkalo (Kazakhstan) in January 2001 in Tashkent, Dushanbe, and Almaty, in each city 50 people were questioned.
3 See: Pravda Vostoka, 15 April, 1999.
4 See: Narodnoe khoziaistvo Uzbekskoi SSR (Tashkent), 1990, p. 130.
5 “Nasha vysshaia tsel — nezavisimost’ i protsvetanie rodiny, svoboda i blagopoluchie naroda,” Pravda Vostoka, 23 January, 2000.
6 Zakliuchenie Ministerstva kul’tury (Conclusion of the Ministry of Culture), No. 101, 14 September, 2001, p. 4.
7 Zakony o sredstvakh massovoi informatsii Kazakhstana i zarubezhnykh stran, Daniker Publishers, Almaty, 2001, p. 79.
8 K. Bakhriev, Tsenzura bespolezna, vredna i unizitelna (a manuscript), Tashkent, 2001, p. 8.
9 Zakony o SMI Kazakhstana i zarubezhnykh stran, p. 91.
10 Ibid., p. 170.
11 V pomoshch zhurnalistu. Zakony Kyrgyzskoi Respubliki, reglamentiruiushchie rabotu SMI (In aid of the journalist. Laws of the Kyrgyz Republic which regulate the activity of mass media), Soros-Kyrgyzstan Foundation, Bishkek, 2001, p. 89.
12 Zakony o SMI Kazakhstana i zarubezhnykh stran, p. 8.
13 See: Kratkiy iuridicheskiy spravochnik dlia zhurnalista, Internews-Uzbekistan, Tashkent, 1999, p. 23.
14 K. Bakhriev, op. cit., p. 11.