May 11, 2021 Find out more February 11, 2021 Find out more August 3, 2020 – Updated on August 4, 2020 Pressure on Karakalpakstan journalist wrongly accused of spreading false information UzbekistanEurope – Central Asia Protecting journalistsProtecting sources Covid19Judicial harassment News Kumar Begniazova UzbekistanEurope – Central Asia Protecting journalistsProtecting sources Covid19Judicial harassment News News Organisation New press freedom predators elected to UN Human Rights Council to go further Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the way the authorities of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic in western Uzbekistan, intimidated a journalist, summoning her in the middle of the night for allegedly reporting the death of Senator Musa Erniyazov, the chairman of Karakalpakstan’s parliament, six days before his reported death last Friday.The editor of the online news media Kar24.uz Kumar Begniyazov was compelled to go to the prosecutor’s office during the night of 25 to 26 July, with her child, to explain her “error.” Although other journalists had already reported Erniyazov’s death, Begniyazov had not. In fact, after checking with the parliament’s press office, she had issued a report on her Telegram channel denying the report that he had died.Although Begniyazov has received no further explanation about this nocturnal summons, she assumes that officials confused her media outlet with another one with a similar name, which had indeed shared a report that Erniyazov, who was also deputy chairman of the Uzbek supreme assembly, had died after contracting Covid-19.Two other journalists were also brought to the prosecutor’s office in the middle of the night for reporting Erniyazov’s death without checking with the authorities first. One was Lola Kallikhanova, the editor of Makan.uz, who was collected by no fewer than six police cars. One of the plainclothes policemen who came for her snatched her phone from her hand and none of them showed any ID. During three hours of questioning, she argued that Karakalpakstan’s journalists did not trust official sources and that access to official information had become much harder since the start of the coronavirus epidemic.At the start of July, the parliament’s press office denied that Erniyazov had caught Covid-19, only to confirm it 13 days later. Kallikhanova, who has written many stories about coronavirus deaths in Karakalpakstan, suspects that the sudden summons to the prosecutor’s office was just a pretext to gain access to her mobile phone and sources.The other journalist was Iskandar Yusupov, who had also shared the Repost.uz report about Erniyazov’s death on his media outlet Kruz.uz’s Telegram channel. He said that a car came at around midnight to take him to the prosecutor’s office, where he was held until 3:30 a.m., and that his mobile phone and laptop were illegally confiscated.“These disproportionate interrogation methods leave no doubt that these authorities were bent on intimidating the journalists,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.“This case has highlighted the difficulty of accessing information in Karakalpakstan, and this hampers the work of journalists, especially during the Covid-19 epidemic. The lack of official transparency about the situation encourages the spread of rumours. We firmly condemn the way these interrogations were conducted and we call for these abuses to be punished. We also call on the authorities in this autonomous republic to stop hounding journalists and to improve communication with them.”On the morning after these interrogations, the prosecutor’s office announced that it was opening a criminal investigation into the dissemination of false news media reports about the spread of life-threatening infections. This is punishable by a fine of 4,000 to 8,000 euros and up to three years in prison following the adoption of the new criminal code article 244-5, whose vague wording poses a threat to press freedom.The outcome of this investigation is now uncertain, after the Uzbek government news agency Uza.uz finally reported that Erniyazov died last Friday.The Uzbek deputy prosecutor-general and the Uzbek Agency for News and Mass Communication both condemned the behaviour of the Karakalpakstan prosecutor’s office, while at the same time stressing the importance for media outlets to verify the information they report.Karakalpakstan is Uzbekistan’s only autonomous region. For fear of separatist movements and insurrections, the Uzbek government restricts access to information about the deaths of senior Karakalpakstan officials who are loyal to Tashkent and who keep the region under tight control.Uzbekistan is ranked 156th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index. 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By – Elroy StephneyTHE diminutive 56 year old Andre Blackman is no stranger to the field of sports. The former pioneer who served in the Guyana National Service (GNS) during the 1970s, represented the organisation in cricket and football as a wicket-keeper/batsman and striker, respectively.After his stint spanning three years in the hinterland, he returned to Essequibo and continued his sporting exploits. His prolific run-scoring earned him selection for North Essequibo where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Trenton Peters, Jaimini Singh, Ramcharran Singh, Bentley Bishop and the late Berchmore Reid, among others.When not in his traditional whites, he would find the back of the nets often for Henrietta Quibo Football Club where he became a house-hold name.His athleticism, stamina and skill he used to perfection in winning many titles. His love and passion for sports including being a local 100m champion has not waned and he has now devoted his time, experience and energies as a football Coach.The vocal and forthright stalwart explained to Chronicle Sport that he is determined to make a difference in the manner in which football is played and administered in Essequibo.Blackman previously served as the vice- president of the Essequibo Coast/Pomeroon Football Association and has now taken on the assignment as a permanent coach for the Mainstay Gold Star Football Club, situated in the Amerindian Community of Mainstay.After attending several formal coaching stints both in Georgetown and in Essequibo, according to Blackman he is now knowledgeable and equipped to impart same to the youths with the aim of producing national footballers from the village.His coaching programme for the club includes at least four days of training during the week and will include players between the ages of 8-28 years old from both gender.During an exclusive interview, he disclosed that his wish is for Essequibo’s football to rise above its current dismal state and also to get more footballers from the hinterland to be exposed.He further stressed that more programmes, including coaching clinics, are needed to generate interest and encourage the young footballers to take the game seriously.Notwithstanding, he is of the view that the Region has tremendous potential, especially with what he witnessed during the NAMILCO Under- 17 as well as the Digicel schools’ football tournaments which were played recently in Essequibo.The dedicated football Coach also highlighted the need for the Essequibo Coast/Pomeroon Football Association to function more effectively by attracting more clubs to the Association, coordinating more competitions, exposing and developing more coaches and having regular meetings that would enlighten the clubs and members as to the functions and plans for the sport in Essequibo.According to Blackman, he remains committed to supporting every effort in having football regain the status it once had in the Region as he reminisced on the days when he joined with local heroes such as Joseph Livan, Compton Haynes, Albert Belfield, Dexter Stephney, Ken Hercules and Dexter Baird, among others, who combined in producing dazzling displays on the field. Meanwhile, Blackman’s next tour of duty will be to guide his Mainstay Gold Star charges who will be participating in the Regional Indigenous heritage football tournament scheduled for this weekend.He has since expressed confidence and has vowed to win the tournament as a testimony of his ability to lead, inspire and bring the best out of the players he termed as his ‘soldiers’ who will battle to the end until victory is earned. With such strong conviction and an appetite to foster unity in diversity, Andre Blackman is going the distance to transform football in Region Two and he is proud to blaze the trail in achieving his goals.