Uzbekistan has said that it is considering restoring journalistic accreditation for the BBC, signaling a possible opening to greater international exposure.
Almost all international media were drummed out of the country following the bloodshed that ensued after the crushing of the Andijan uprising in 2005.
Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said on April 14 that an application from the British broadcaster has been received and that work on accreditation is ongoing. It has not been confirmed if the accreditation request has been granted.
Kamilov said at a press conference that Uzbekistan is interested in seeing a greater number of leading media outlets represented in the country. He did not specify, however, to which outlets he was referring.
The possibility of the BBC resuming its Uzbekistan operations is particularly surprising in view of a recent incident in involving the head of the British broadcaster’s Central Asia service, Hamid Ismailov.
Ismailov flew into Tashkent on March 1 but was detained and ordered out of the country on the same day.
Opposition-leaning news website eltuz.com had reported that the Foreign Ministry was sent a list in early February containing the names of people set to visit with a BBC delegation. Ismailov was reportedly on that list.
Along with other broadcasters, like RFE/RL and Voice of America, the BBC had an office in Tashkent until May 2005, when the Andijan events occurred. Uzbek authorities argued at the time that international media had inaccurately covered the events in Andijan.
The prohibition remains strictly enforced, as the US State Department noted in its recent country human rights report.
“The government continued to refuse Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America, and the BBC World Service permission to broadcast from within the country, although the websites of Voice of America and the BBC were periodically accessible,” the report noted.
As of April 3, the Foreign Ministry website listed 24 people as being accredited with international news outlets — most of them being state-controlled entities from nearby countries, such as Russia, China, Azerbaijan and Turkey. One notable exception is Reuters news agency, whose correspondent, Muhammadsharif Mamatkulov, until recently worked for Agence France-Presse. One other Western outlet represented is BBC Monitoring, which is a subscription-based service within the BBC that monitors and translates local media content across the world.