Did Uzbeks Get the News About Bin Laden's Death?
Did the official Uzbek media report the story of the assassination of Osama bin Laden?
It doesn't seem so -- or at least, the reports came very belatedly.
The official sites like gazeta.uz or uzreport.com or uza.uz did not have any stories on the day of the killing, or the day after -- nor did the semi-official uzmetronom.com. There didn't seem to be any Uzbeks tweeting anything (but there aren't that many on Twitter).
Richard Orange of the Telegraph ran a story headlined "Uzbekistan Fails to Report the Story of the Decade," claiming that Tashkent had a blackout on the bin Laden story, citing uznews.net, an independent website.
According to uznews.net, only one news portal, 12.uz, covered the Al Qaeda leader's death, a day after the rest of the world's news outlets.
Uznews.net reporters called around to find out why state-controlled journalists weren't reporting the world's top news story. A reporter for the official daily Pravda Vostoka [the Russian phrase for "Truth of the East"], the organ of Uzbekistan's Cabinet of Ministers, who didn't provide his name said he hadn't heard the news, and apparently didn't have an Internet connection. He added that "he didn't think the story was important for their audience."
The reporter also said he hadn't seen an official notice from the official wire service UzA.uz -- which uznews.net saw as a sign that state reporters wait for such signals before reporting news stories.
Uznews.net also failed to get a valid explanation for the absence of the bin Laden story from uzreport.com, a new commercial news site that says it is independent but seems to publish mainly pro-government news items. An uzreport.com staff person who answered the phone but would not give a name told uznews.net that uzreport.com did not have its own sources on the story so was not covering it. When challenged that in fact uzreport.com did run material that wasn't always from its own sources, the staff person said bin Laden's death wasn't relevant to the kind of economic news the web site featured.
Since independent exile sites with Uzbek news like fergananews.com are blocked from inside Uzbekistan, it's difficult to know what Uzbeks knew about the Navy SEALs' raid on bin Laden's compound, and when they knew it.
But a reader of uznews.net who only gave the pseudonym "tashkentskiy" said in a comment that in fact, the site centrasia.ru is not totally blocked, and foreign news on it can be accessed and some people did read the news from Pakistan. Furthermore, he cited 40 Uzbek cable stations, including a number of Russian stations, that many Uzbek citizens are able to watch using satellite dishes, which did carry the news about bin Laden immediately. The reader claimed that the official newspaper Vecherniy Tashkent did cover the news about the terrorist's demise on May 3, and on May 4, two days after the raid, Pravda Vostoka (pv.uz) finally had the story.
Yet a perusal of pv.uz failed to turn up anything at all on bin Laden in the last few days.
Wouldn't the Uzbek government, which has joined the "war on terrorism," want to mark the passing of the world's number one terrorist? As the Telegraph's Orange said:
Osama bin Laden's death is by no means irrelevant to Uzbekistan, which has long struggled to contain Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, its own al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group.
Uzbekistan also initially blacked out news of the terrorist attack in New York on September 11, 2001.