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October 06, 2010

VOA Reporter on Trial in Uzbekistan

An Uzbek journalist who reports for Voice of America has gone on trial in Tashkent on charges of slandering and insulting the government. The journalist, Abdumalik Bobaev, is also charged with endangering public security and illegally crossing the Uzbekistan border.

Bobaev denies the charges, which specifically cite Bobaev's reports for VOA.

The reporter's trial began Thursday and is scheduled to resume on Monday.

If found guilty, Bobaev faces up to eight years in prison.

U.S. and British representatives were denied access into the courtroom to observe the proceedings.  The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent said Thursday the United States is closely monitoring the case and expects Uzbekistan to uphold its constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and due process of the law.

In a statement Thursday, Reporters Without Borders described Bobaev as "one of Uzbekistan's few remaining independent reporters".  The international rights group said his trial could signal a new offensive against journalists by the Uzbek government.

Rights groups and media organizations say Uzbekistan is one of the world's worst offenders of press freedom.

Last month, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe cited Bobaev's case and expressed concern about the continuing harassment and jailing of independent journalists in Uzbekistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.