“As a journalist, I try to convey the kind of message the average audience member in Uzbekistan has no way of getting through official channels. We try to compensate for whatever is not reported or is underreported in Uzbekistan because of censorship. If people’s understanding of their country and world is enhanced by my work, that’s a big accomplishment for me. Culturally, Uzbekistan and the Uzbek-speaking region [including Southern Kyrgyzstan, parts of Southern Kazakhstan, and parts of Tajikistan and Northern Afghanistan] is a place rich in history, and it carries the legacy of great historical figures like Tamerlane, who conquered a third of the world, and Avicenna, who invented modern medicine. In the present day, Uzbekistan [where the largest Uzbek population is found] is a country of the former Soviet Union where people are striving for democracy under the old Soviet leaders, but can’t enjoy the freedom that those in the European countries of the former Soviet Bloc have achieved. There are both political and technical challenges to broadcasting in Uzbekistan. There is a lot of control over information and what journalists can say. We used to have over ten affiliates in Uzbekistan, but after the events in the city of Andijan [when Uzbekistan security forces reportedly fired on peaceful protesters in 2005], all foreign journalists were ordered out and these affiliates were ordered to stop working with VOA. So now the only way to watch VOA is by satellite. We are also on short wave radio, but we are often jammed, either by Uzbekistan or by China, because the Uzbek language is very close to Uighur. Our website is also blocked in most places in Uzbekistan, and only people who know about proxy servers can access it. Still, people watch and listen, including many Uzbek-speakers outside of Uzbekistan. I feel more than certain that if none of this were happening, everyone would listen to or watch VOA. We offer the kind of information they don’t get in ordinary life. People in Uzbekistan are hungry for information. They know that what they are being fed is not true.”
Odil Ruzaliev produces and hosts a daily 30-minute radio news program, produces a half-hour weekly TV program and works on the VOA News Uzbek Service website. Odil was the creator and host of the television program First Channel News, Uzbekistan’s first English language news broadcast. Although intended for foreigners residing in Uzbekistan, the show became a huge hit with people studying English and is still running to this day. Before coming to VOA, he also produced stories for CNN’s World View and worked for the BBC. In his spare time, he is a freelance photographer.