BBC quits Uzbekistan

The BBC is suspending its operations in Uzbekistan due to security concerns. All local staff are being withdrawn and the office in the capital Tashkent will close for at least six months pending a decision on its future. Regional BBC head Behrouz Afagh said the staff had been harassed and intimidated in recent months. “Over the past four months since the unrest in Andijan, BBC staff in Uzbekistan have been subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation which has made it very difficult for them to report on events in the country.”

In June, BBC correspondent Monica Whitlock was forced to leave Tashkent under pressure from the government. Two local members of staff have since been granted refugee status by the United Nations. The Uzbek ambassador in London has declined an invitation to discuss the issue with the BBC.

Uzbekistan says 169 people lost their lives when soldiers put down the “bandit uprising” in Andijan in May, but human rights groups believe that 500 people were killed. The Uzbek government has rejected international calls for an independent inquiry into the crackdown. Fifteen men are currently on trial, accused of being behind the unrest. (BBC, Oct. 26)

We recently noted that government prosecutors in the trial have accused the BBC of secretly acting in complicity with the protesters.

See our last post on Uzbekistan.