While a mood of permissiveness has descended over some sections of Uzbekistan’s entertainment business, performers are still being warned to remain on their guard.
The head of the state-run Uzbeknavo performance agency, Odilbek Abdukahharov, told Uzbek newspaper Zhamiyat that any artists who post pictures or videos “of a pornographic bent” of themselves online could lose their performing license. This kind of behavior, said Abdukahharov, is a threat to the spirituality of the nation.
As Abdukahharov explained, in an article titled “Don’t Light Fires Under the Spirituality of the Nation,” it is wrong for performers to imagine that what they post online is their business alone.
“Every month, we work with artists on spirituality and we urge them to abide by the rules. Ever day, we monitor social media and we make artists take down improper photos and videos. If that doesn’t do the job, we are forced to revoke artists’ licenses,” Abdukahharov said.
The Zhamiyat reporter behind the piece, Nargiza Mehmonova, added her own two cents of menacing rhetoric.
“There are some Uzbek singers who, instead of trying to build audiences through their art, try to create a sensation on the internet with the help of photos and videos and through the appeal of their bodies. This fire under the spirituality and enlightenment of our people brings to mind the criminal acts of Herostratus, who sought fame by torching the Holy Temple of Artemis,” Mehmonova wrote.
Mehmonova concludes by appealing to the show business community to uphold morality and the traditions of the Uzbek people. Since their behavior is so closely followed by young people, entertainers are in a position to set a good example, the journalist argues.
The government has long had the relationship between public morality and pop culture on its agenda.
In early 2016, there was a wave of moral outrage when footage surfaced on the Telegram messaging app of popular singer Tamila apparently exposing her rear. Uzbeknavo duly deprived Tamila — whose real name is Esmeralda Rakhmatova — of her right to perform, arguing that the singer had violated the terms of her license. Still, although Tamila has lost the right to have her output broadcast on TV and the radio, her songs still routinely surface on the internet.
The authorities were likewise shocked by a 2015 video for the song Konikmadim (I Haven’t Got Used To It), which featured singers Rayhon Ganiyeva and Lola Yuldasheva in an assortment of sultry poses. Moralizing critics suggested that the performance of the singers in the video was of an improperly lesbian nature.
“How to understand the behavior of some of our singers who perform on family television and dress however they want, forgetting about the traditional national style? They sing nonsensical songs and make frivolous videos,” deputy Prime Minister Elmira Bositkhonova complained at the time.