More than six years in prison for Uzbek blogger who covered corruption

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the sentence of six and a half years in prison that a court in southern Uzbekistan passed yesterday on YouTube video blogger Otabek Sattoryi on trumped-up charges of extortion and defamation. The Uzbek courts must overturn his conviction and recognise his innocence, RSF says.

The founder and editor of the YouTube channel Xalq Fikri (People’s Opinion), Otabek Sattoryi was clearly aware of his possible fate because one of his last video reports accused the local authorities of fabricating criminal charges against bloggers.

A specialist in investigating corruption in the Termez region, he has been convicted of libel and “large scale extortion.” After his arrest on 29 January, he was initially charged with extortion of cash and a mobile phone from a businessman, but other accusations later emerged, including one involving the exchange of his home, which was to be demolished, for two apartments.

“This conviction is baseless,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The trumped-up charges brought against Otabek Sattoryi testify to a desire to cover up local corruption scandals and intimidate critics. We call on the authorities to review this blogger’s conviction and for him to be freed at once and without conditions.”

Sattoryi was already fined 9.8 million sums (770 euros) in February on charges of defamation and “insult.” In a sign of their hyper-sensitivity, the authorities brought criminal charges of “resisting an official representative” and “interfering in an investigation” in early April against two journalists with the independent media outlet Effect.uz, Elerbek Tadjibaev and Akbar Nurimbetov, who had asked a judge if they could attend Sattoryi’s trial.

Another Termez blogger, Behruz Nematov, was kidnapped in broad daylight on 2 April by unidentified persons who held him for four hours and beat him with a rubber truncheon while demanding that he stop covering the proceedings against Sattoryi.

Uzbekistan fell one place in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 157th out of 180 countries.

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