Saturday, July 16, 2005

East-West Conflict Over Andijan

RFE/RL reports that Western media in Uzbekistan trying to cover the issue of the massacre at Andijan on May 13 are, like independent Uzbek and Russian media, coming under concerted attack by spin doctors and media "consultants", many of whom originate from neighbouring Russia. The assault on Western press coverage is leading to growing conflict between the U.S. and EU on the one hand, and the Russian Federal authorities on the other.
Pressure on NGO Internews is part of a concerted campaign to discredit Western media following the mid-May uprising in which hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed after Uzbek troops opened fire on demonstrators. Some say the assault on Western media has become more "aggressive and professional" and suggest Uzbek authorities are getting help from their Russian neighbors

Writing in "Vremya novostei" on 29 June, Arkadii Dubnov sounded a similar theme. "The U.S. and EU are insisting on an independent investigation of Andijon, which Tashkent with the support of Moscow is categorically refusing. As Russian political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov expressed recently, the West is proceeding with a "presumption of guilt" with regard to the Uzbek president.... Not surprisingly, official Tashkent is grateful for Moscow's support. According to Dubnov, a "well-informed" expert on Russian-Uzbek relations speaking on the grounds on anonymity, told the daily that "Tashkent will have to pay for such support."

Whether or not Russia is playing a role in the Uzbek authorities' handling of the domestic and international fallout from Andijon, the United States, for its part, appears intent on continuing to try to influence Tashkent policy. This week, U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith (Republican) announced that he has introduced legislation that would halt both military and humanitarian aid to Central Asian governments that fail to democratize or respect human rights.

So far, Uzbekistan has not appeared to react to Congressman Smith's effort. But two weeks ago, speaking from Moscow, President Islam Karimov signaled that the campaign against the Uzbek media has support at the highest level. He accused Western journalists of arriving in Andijon prior to the unrest in order to "occupy convenient positions for reporting," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying on 28 June. "This was a professional, thoroughly prepared operation," Karimov concluded.

No comments: