This report aims to shed light on the situation for bloggers and journalists in Uzbekistan which, in spite of ongoing reforms in the country since 2016, remains concerning. When President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016, the overall human rights situation in the country appeared to be improving. During this period, the government released some political prisoners, adopted legislative amendments regarding people’s political participation and judicial independence, took measures to end forced labor, and lightened its grip on the operations of civil society organizations. In the last two years, however, the initial hope tied to President Mirziyoyev’s reform agenda has dimmed as the situation for freedom of expression, assembly, and association has taken a turn for the worse.

In spite of the president’s professed tolerance towards greater press freedom, the government has recently adopted a series of restrictive amendments that have had negative effects on bloggers and independent journalists. The government has also retained tight control over public information, with traditional news sources and much of social media dominated by pro-government journalists and bloggers. Additionally, the crime of “disseminating false information” in the media or online was added to the criminal code in 2020.  A year later, new amendments also introduced a new criminal provision for “public calls to mass disturbances and violence against citizens,” giving the authorities a broader grant to clamp down on freedom of expression. Other amendments introduced “public insult or defamation” against the president of Uzbekistan online as a criminal offense carrying a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.

This report analyzes the cases of 10 bloggers, journalists and social media activists in Uzbekistan who have been subjected to pressure and prosecution by the government as a result of their work and/or exercising their rights of freedom of expression, assembly, or association. The bloggers faced retaliation, pressure, threats, and prosecution and some still remain in detention. In addition to the concerns posed to these fundamental rights, the report also identifies violations of these individuals’ fair trials rights entailed in the judicial processes to which they were subjected as well as concerns over their right to be free from arbitrary detention.

The report provides recommendations urging the government of Uzbekistan to amend legislation that is currently being used to suppress the rights of bloggers and journalists, stop prosecuting the bloggers and journalists whose fundamental rights are protected by national and international law, and immediately release those whose rights were violated.

This report was published with the generous support of the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights.