POLITICS | 16:38 / 28.02.2023
13 min read

Experts speak about media freedom and amendments to the Constitution

Photo: Kun.uz

Openness and transparency are one of the biggest changes made during Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s tenure. The President has repeatedly stated that he will not go back from this path, no matter how difficult it is. The state’s commitment to this goal can be seen in the amendment to the Constitution.

“There are still cases of obstructing the activities of journalists”

Anvar Eminov, political analyst:

- Today, in our country, the activities of mass media and journalists play an important role in the effectiveness of large-scale reforms aimed at strengthening communication with the people, ensuring the openness of state bodies, and ensuring the active participation of the population in social and political processes.

For this reason, in the following years, special attention is being paid to improving the legislation regulating relations in this field, creating sufficient conditions for the effective functioning of mass media and journalists. The number of print and internet publications, TV and radio channels is increasing.

Mass media in various forms are becoming an important factor in ensuring the diversity of opinions and in boldly raising the shortcomings and problems that are being tolerated locally. There are great opportunities to communicate directly with the population, to respond quickly to the problems that people think about, and to come up with an open, impartial and critical opinion on various topics.

The positive changes in the field are also recognized by international organizations specialized in the study of the state of freedom of speech in the international arena. One such example is the fact that Uzbekistan rose by 24 positions and took the 133rd place in the 2022 press freedom rating.

Anvar Eminov / Photo: From personal archive

The head of our state has been stressing that freedom of speech, openness and transparency of state bodies are the priorities of state policy. Indeed, obstructing the legal activities of journalists should be considered as an act against our democratic reforms and damage to the reputation of our country.

Unfortunately, until now, there are cases of obstruction of journalists’ work by some civil servants who do not want to understand the policy of openness carried out in our country.

Our current Constitution recognizes the freedom of the mass media and the inadmissibility of censorship. At the moment, the issue of how to ensure the implementation of these norms remains open.

The current Administrative Responsibility Code or Criminal Code does not include direct liability for violation of freedom of speech, censorship, and illegal interference in the activities of journalists. Only general liability is provided for persons who obstruct the activities of the mass media, pressure, threaten and harass a journalist. Of course, the fact that the impact measures in these articles do not directly apply to journalistic activity is also the cause of some negative situations in this field.

For this reason, in the process of constitutional reforms, in particular, on the basis of suggestions and opinions expressed by the general public, additions and clarifications are being made to the article related to the activities of mass media.

According to the proposed rule, it is expected that the freedom of mass media, their rights to seek, receive, use and disseminate information will be guaranteed by the state at the level of the Basic Law.

Of course, the mass media are also responsible for the accuracy of the information they provide.

Because it is no secret that some problematic issues are visible in this field as well. In the process of ensuring freedom of speech, it is also important to ensure the legal rights and freedoms of other citizens, to strengthen the protection of people’s private life and information protected by law, and to prevent the situations of grounding someone’s dignity.

The definition of these provisions in the Constitution serves to improve the legal documents regulating the relations related to the activities of mass media and journalists, to strengthen the protection of freedom of speech and journalistic activities.

Obstructing or interfering with the activities of mass media and journalists will cause liability according to the law.

We must not forget the fact that the freedom of mass media is also necessary for the realization of all other constitutional rights of citizens.

“Hindering media activity should be considered as damage to the country’s reputation”

Bobur Alikhonov, journalist:

- President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in his holiday greetings to employees of the industry on the occasion of the Day of Press and Mass Media Workers in 2022, touched upon reports that in some places media workers are treated with disdain and that they are prevented from working freely within the scope of their authority. He emphasized that preventing mass media workers from freely carrying out their activities within the framework of the law should be considered as an action against our democratic reforms and damage to the reputation of our country.

In the congratulation, it was specially noted that the freedom of speech and press in Uzbekistan should always be under the protection of our main law, laws and the President. The court and prosecutor’s office should take strict measures against such negative situations, which are completely inappropriate for us.

Bobur Alikhonov / Photo: Kommersant.uz

The mass media and journalists, who are committed to the implementation of the policy of the head of our country aimed at openness, justice and transparency, unfortunately sometimes face obstacles, various pressures, and illegal interference in their work. This is due to the fact that many state bodies and officials are still unable to get used to the policy of openness.

Our colleagues, who once suffered from the calamity of “censorship”, are now tired of the pressure and harassment of some tyrants who are trying to stifle the freedom of speech and the press.

But now there is no turning back, our destination is clear. It is impossible today to mold journalists and mass media, who have experienced the taste of openness and transparency, as before. Besides, no one has the right to obstruct the activities of the media and industry workers when the President himself is standing behind the journalists!

At the same time, improving the legal foundations of the industry and protecting the professional activities of journalists, strengthening the dialogue between the state and society, and establishing strong public control are important tasks ahead of us. I believe that this is the purpose of the amendment to Article 67 of the Constitution.

“Uzbekistan will not retreat from its chosen path in the matter of openness”

Muzaffar Jalolov, rector of INHA University:

- One of the areas where positive changes are taking place in many countries in recent years is the information sector. Mass media, social networks, blogging, columnism are developing. Ensuring freedom of speech has risen to the level of state policy. All this is due to the freedom of media guaranteed by the constitutions of developed and developing countries, of course.

In particular, according to the norm reflected in the current Constitution of our country:

“The mass media is free and works according to the law. They are responsible for the correctness of the information. Censorship is not allowed”.

It is proposed to add the following to the new version:

“The state guarantees the freedom of media activity, their rights to seek, receive, use and disseminate information.

Obstructing or interfering with the activities of mass media and journalists will cause liability according to the law.

Mass media are responsible for the correctness of the information they present.

Muzaffar Jalolov / Photo: Kun.uz

These changes and additions are being introduced in order to create the most favorable conditions for the implementation of mass media activities, and to form the appropriate constitutional framework aimed at establishing a constructive dialogue between the state and society.

Such a structural formation of the article aims to conveniently and effectively solve the tasks and problems related to ensuring the freedom and independence of mass media, more precisely, to allocate these tasks to certain groups and establish a logical connection between them.

It is worth noting that the mass media has a great impact on the lives of millions of people, because it is one of the most influential social institutions. From this point of view, the free press is, first of all, a structure that is deeply aware of its obligations to the society, and whose information must always correspond to the truth and reality.

The head of state, who deeply understands this aspect of the issue, has been emphasizing the role and importance of mass media and journalists in the country’s development. For example, during his visit to Kashkadarya region on February 24, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev confidently stated that he was given many proposals to curb and limit the activities of mass media, but he will not do so.

Because of the additions to the Constitution, which provide for the establishment of responsibility for obstruction of journalistic activities, support for media workers, Uzbekistan will not deviate from its chosen path in the matter of openness.

Related News