Rights Watchdog Urges Uzbekistan To End Persecution Of Outspoken Blogger

(@FahadShabbir)

Rights Watchdog Urges Uzbekistan to End Persecution of Outspoken Blogger

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 12th February, 2021) The Uzbek government should release Otabek Sattoriy, a popular blogger known for criticizing local authorities, and clear him of "dubious" extortion charges, an international human rights organization said on Friday.

The 40-year-old was detained on January 30 and put in pretrial detention two days later on suspicion of extorting a new cellphone from a prominent local merchant, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a press release.

"Otabek Sattoriy's blogging on sensitive issues such as alleged corruption and farmers' rights has put him in local authorities' crosshairs. Uzbek authorities should release Sattoriy, drop the charges for lack of evidence, and respect and protect freedom of expression," HRW Senior Central Asia Researcher Mihra Rittmann said, as quoted in the press release.

According to the Uzbek court, in 2020, Sattoriy went to a bazaar in the southeastern region of Sherabad and allegedly blackmailed its head into buying him a new cellphone, threatening to shoot a damning report.

What happened in actuality, according to Sattoriy father's account of the events, as quoted in the press release, was that the blogger went to shoot a video about the market's conditions but was prevented from filming by unidentified men, who then broke his cellphone.

Citing a February 7 video on YouTube by another Uzbek journalist, the watchdog said the market head reached out to the blogger and offered to replace the broken phone with a new one. On January 30, when the merchant met with Sattoriy outside the latter's home to hand him a new phone, several plainclothes officers detained the blogger, claiming that the phone was part of an extortion scheme.

The watchdog recalled Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's pledge of commitment to freedom of media, saying that it should mean that bloggers like Sattoriy are let carry out their reporting activities without fear of arbitrary persecution.