Uzbeck Journalist Gets Award
Advocate, November 27, 2003
Paris-based World Association of Newspapers has awarded jailed Uzbek
journalist Ruslan Sharipov with the 2004 Golden Pen of Freedom and urged
officials to release him. “The award...recognizes Mr. Sharipov’s
outstanding defense and promotion of press freedom in the face of constant
physical danger, prison, and censorship,” the group said in a statement
released Tuesday. “His refusal to censor himself, even in the face of
intimidation, prison, and torture, is a courageous act that is an inspiration
to journalists and human rights everywhere."
25, who is openly gay, is serving a four-year prison term for having
homosexual sex—illegal in Uzbekistan under laws still on the books from
Soviet times—and also of having sex with minors. He was sentenced in August.
Sharipov leads an independent group that focuses on media freedom. His
conviction has drawn much attention from international media and human rights
groups who have demanded his immediate release, saying he is being persecuted
for his criticism of the government. Independent journalists in Uzbekistan
often face fabricated legal charges and harassment, and the media remains
restrained by heavy self-censorship. The former Soviet republic in Central
Asia has long drawn international criticism for widespread human rights abuses
and lack of freedom. But as Afghanistan’s neighbor, Uzbekistan is a key U.S.
regional ally in the war on terrorism and hosts hundreds of U.S. troops.
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