Carol Morello wanted to ask Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov a simple question about human rights violations reportedly occurring in Uzbekistan. Morello, a Washington Post reporter, politely asked, “Mr. President, would you take a question from the American press? Secretary Kerry, of the State Department has criticized the human rights situation. Would you respond?” And with that, Morello was escorted out of the room in which John Kerry was meeting with the Uzbekistani president.
Morello reported on the human rights abuses occurring in Uzbekistan. She wrote: “Uzbekistan has a record of abusing its own citizens that the organization Human Rights Watch labels ‘atrocious.’ The State Department’s own human rights report issued this year includes a long inventory of abuses, such as torture, the detention of hundreds — if not thousands — of political prisoners, endemic corruption and forced labor during the annual cotton harvest.”
The abuses resulted in sanctions against Uzbekistan in 2004. But later that same year, those sanctions were lifted as a result of Uzbekistani involvement in the war in Afghanistan. As a result of the lifted sanctions, Washington resumed its sales of military weaponry and technology to the country, and the sanctions have been waived annually as a result of the partnership between the two countries.
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Morello wrote that the partnership between the U.S. and Uzbekistan has not resulted in diminished human rights violations. She cited Human Rights Watch’s report that “one case in which the body of a detained opposition leader that was returned to his family showed signs of severe torture, and the authorities demanded an immediate, secret burial. Transparency International lists Uzbekistan as one of the 10 most corrupt nations in the world.”
As for the forced removal from the meeting between Kerry and Karimov, Morello commented she “called out a question about human rights at the conclusion of Kerry’s meeting with Karimov, an Uzbek official and an American wearing a ‘diplomatic security’ pin each took her by an arm and firmly guided her from the room. U.S. officials later said that the Uzbeks had banned the reporter from covering the opening statements at the six-nation meeting but then apparently relented and allowed the reporter to attend. A State Department official apologized for the diplomatic security officer’s role in escorting the reporter out the door.”
It appears that not only is freedom of religion, free elections, freedom from political persecution, and freedom of speech not protected and valued in Uzbekistan–but even if you’re an American reporter, your own government will help Uzbekistan keep you quiet. It seems that instead of helping escort Morello out of the room, the U.S. diplomatic security officer should have insisted that Morello’s question be heard.
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Is this simply an attempt by the Obama administration to silence the press over its partnership with one of the 10 most corrupt nations of the world?
What do you think? Scroll down to comment below.