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VOA Concerned About Conviction, Fine for Reporter in Uzbekistan

Hopes he will be able to continue reporting without fear of retaliation

Washington, D.C., October 15, 2010 – The Voice of America is expressing continued concern about a VOA Uzbek Service journalist who was fined more than $10,000 Friday by an Uzbek court that convicted him of slander, insult and publishing information harmful to the public peace.

VOA Uzbek Service reporter Abdulmalik Boboev had faced eight years in jail on the charges. A lawyer for Mr. Boboev, who pled not guilty and has denied doing anything wrong, says his client is considering an appeal of the verdict.

VOA Director Danforth W. Austin said Friday, "We are reviewing the decision by the Uzbek court. We are pleased that Mr. Boboev wasn't sentenced to jail. However, we remain concerned that his work as a journalist has resulted in a substantial fine. We will continue to follow his case, and hope that he will be able to continue providing fair, comprehensive and accurate reports to our audience without fear of retaliation."

The 41 year-old Mr. Boboev was among several journalists summoned by the Prosecutor-General's Office last year for questioning about their journalistic activities.

After the judge's decision Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent released a statement saying it was, "Concerned about the implications of this case for the state of media freedom in Uzbekistan." U.S. officials had raised the case with the Uzbek government and sent American diplomats to observe the trial.

Over the last two years, Uzbekistan has jailed eight reporters. On Wednesday, an Uzbek court convicted a Russian news website editor of defamation charges.

Press freedom experts say that the eight journalists in Uzbek jails serve as a warning to reporters that they face the threat of imprisonment if they do not practice a high degree of self-censorship.

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