Uzbekistan: First Daughter Tweets on Father, TV Blackout, Competition
On October 29 Gulnara Karimova confirmed in a tweet that the Uzbek Agency for Communications and Information had closed four television channels she is believed to control for violating laws on the media, on advertising, on children, copyrights, licensing and so on. The stations regularly profile Karimova and her activities. Their shuttering robs her of a platform she uses to sculpt her image at home. Karimova has long been thought to crave the presidency after her 75-year-old father, Islam Karimov, moves on.
In response to a Twitter user’s question whether the reports were true, Karimova – using her handle @GulnaraKarimova – responded in her idiosyncratic Russian (translated here with an effort to retain the original style): “[H]owever silly this list sounds, but yes! How have you obtained this list? As far as I understand is this already part of the public domain?!”
On October 30, Radio Free Europe reported that bank accounts for the media holding company behind the stations, Terra Group, had been frozen and that the company’s accounting office had been “padlocked.” Rumors are also circulating that investigators are looking into embezzlement allegations at Karimova’s Fund Forum charity network.
In her inimitable style, Karimova is also using Twitter to address the reported rifts in her family and clashes with the powerful figures surrounding her father.
On October 30, Karimova retweeted a message addressing speculation she has fallen out with the head of the secret police, Rustam Inoyatov: “If the head of intelligence services is not happy but is afraid of her popularity with the people it means he has his own personal ambitions and plans.”
This could be Karimova’s response to a report posted by exiled opposition leader Muhammad Salih’s website. The report claimed that Inoyatov, who chairs Uzbekistan’s National Security Committee (SNB), had complained to her father that she had insulted him before his subordinates following the arrest of her cousin Akbarali Abdullayev on corruption-related charges earlier this month.
The blackout at Karimova’s television channels sparked a barrage of media reports containing speculation about her downfall. Surprisingly, websites that are usually blocked in Uzbekistan because they carry material critical of the regime were suddenly, briefly, accessible for users in Uzbekistan over the weekend, fostering suspicion that someone powerful wanted Uzbeks to read stories critical of Karimova.
Karimova herself seemed to embrace this view, tweeting today in Russian: “It is interesting why access to online media outlets like uznews.net, centrasia.ru, Fergana.ru is open only on days when there is ‘pure’ negative there [on these websites].”
In Salih’s report, the president was outraged at Karimova’s recent behavior, including her alleged involvement in mounting money-laundering scandals in Europe. After that report emerged, she indirectly compared him to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, quoting a line credited to Stalin’s son Vasily in a popular miniseries: “Comrade Stalin has been … and is … and he is my father! And he will remain so until I die.”
Amid the unfolding drama and uncertainty around her future, Karimova professes to be keeping cool, tweeting October 30 in English: “My anthem for now: never care for what they say, never care for [the] game they play!!!”