Uzbekistan shakes up media scene with new 24-hour news channel
Uzbekistan on Monday launched its first ever 24-hour news channel in a move seen as the latest sign of a thaw in the reclusive nation since Shavkat Mirziyoyev became president last year.
Mirziyoyev, who took over after the death of his father, longtime ruler Islam Karimov, has repeatedly criticised the ex-Soviet state’s tightly-controlled media.
Officials have mooted allowing organisations such as the BBC and Human Rights Watch back into the country after lengthy bans.
The state-run channel Uzbekistan-24 aims to “bring objective and reliable information to the population” and will broadcast in Uzbek, Russian and English, a statement on its website said.
It “will conduct direct round-the-clock information broadcasting on the territory of the whole country (covering) domestic and foreign policy on the basis of a new format of news journalism,” the statement said.
If the channel lives up to its own billing then it will mark a major change in news broadcasting in Uzbekistan, which has typically been plagued by rigid censorship and lengthy reporting delays.
The Russian agency Tass quoted the state broadcaster’s chairman Bobur Alikhanov as saying that it would also report from nine foreign locations, where it is currently seeking accreditation.
The channel would however seek to “maintain the position of Uzbekistan”, Tass quoted Alikhanov as saying.
While the launch of the outlet may shake up Uzbekistan’s staid media environment, it does not mean the authorities are set to loosen their grip.
Mirziyoyev, who turned 60 on Monday, has sought to peg back some of the more repressive policies put in place by long-reigning predecessor Islam Karimov, while keeping the country’s authoritarian system largely in place.
Speaking in Brussels earlier this month Foreign Minister Abdulzaziz Komilov said the country might readmit both Human Rights Watch and the BBC into the country following long hiatuses.
Karimov, under whom Mirziyoyev served as prime minister for 13 years, died of a reported stroke in September last year.
His rule, which began before the country’s independence from the Soviet Union, saw all real political opposition crushed and was slammed by rights groups for systematic abuses.