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Two journalists found guilty of slander in separate cases

(CJES/IFEX) - A sentence in the case involving journalist Abdumalik Boboyev was handed out in the Tashkent Mirzo-Ulugbek Criminal Court on 15 October 2010. The journalist was found guilty on three counts (slander, insult, and the production or dissemination of materials posing a threat to public safety and public order). The court ordered the journalist to pay a fine of 18.86 million soms (400 minimal wages, approx. US$11,500).

Lawyers see this sentence as "the mildest possible sentence." "Article 244-1 of the Uzbek Criminal Code [the production or dissemination of materials posing a threat to public safety and public order] carries a punishment of five to eight years in prison. The fact that the judge has given such a mild punishment is just surprising. It's very rare in Uzbekistan," the journalist's lawyer Sergei Mayorov said.

The court did not ban the journalist from working in journalism for three years, which the prosecutor had asked for.

Boboyev was also charged with illegal border-crossing and illegal entry into the Republic of Uzbekistan (a crime enshrined by Article 223 of the Criminal Code), but the prosecutor asked the court to clear the journalist of that charge due to a lack of evidence of a crime, which the court did.

In a separate development, Vladimir Berezovsky, a reporter with the Russian "Parlamentskaya Gazeta" and editor of the website Vesti.uz, who permanently lives in Uzbekistan, has been found guilty of slander and defamation by a Tashkent court, but was immediately amnestied, Ferghana.ru has reported. The indictment does not name the people who suffered as a result of the journalist's actions (i.e., the people whom the journalist was accused of defaming and slandering) as the court failed to determine those people.

Berezovsky claimed he has been framed, saying his articles contain no calls for a revolution in Uzbekistan. The journalist accused the prosecutor of deliberately distorting facts to substantiate the charges. He also said the news reports published on Vesti.uz contained accurate information, have always been easily accessible on the Internet, and no one had questioned them.

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