Seven years in prison for poems and videos on the Internet insulting the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Fergana resident sentenced to seven years in prison for posting on Facebook (the social network belongs to the Meta corporation, recognized as extremist in the Russian Federation (*country sponsor of terrorism)) poems and videos containing insults against the President of Uzbekistan. About it Uznews.uz reports with reference to the country’s Supreme Court.

No details provided.

Total since the beginning of the year for publicly insulting the head of state Shavkat Mirziyoyeva and members of his family in Uzbekistan, at least ten people were convicted.

Among them is another Fergana resident. The 33-year-old man repeatedly posted videos on TikTok in which he insulted the president of Uzbekistan. He was found guilty under several articles of the country’s Criminal Code and sentenced to 5 years and 3 months in prison.

A 60-year-old resident of Fergana posted a video on the YouTube portal in which she accused Shukhrat Ganiev, who held the post of khokim (head of administration) of the Fergana region until August 2023, of fraud and corruption, and also doubted the honesty of the head of state. The court sentenced her to three years of restriction of freedom and a fine.

Another resident of the Fergana Valley, a 29-year-old Namangan, was sentenced by the Jizzakh City Court to 4 years of restriction of freedom for leaving a comment under a TikTok video in June 2020 with insults to Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his mother.

The following were sentenced to correctional labor for a term of one to three years:

– a 25-year-old student of Samarkand State University, who in May last year posted 10 videos on Instagram with curse words addressed to Mirziyoyev;

— two Samarkand residents, 26 and 30 years old, as well as a 25-year-old resident of Karakalpakstan, who left derogatory comments under 15 videos about Shavkat Mirziyoyev;

– a resident of the Samarkand region who called the short number “102” and stated that he was dissatisfied with the new powers of law enforcement officers, while insulting the president of the country.

Earlier it was reported about the sentence of a 28-year-old Namangan man who wrote offensive comments on social networks against government officials and called Mirziyoyev a “traitor.”

Nova24.uz, 04/30/2024, “A resident of Namangan was imprisoned for insulting the president on social networks”: 28-year-old Bakhodir Kurbanov wrote on Facebook “a message of a slanderous and insulting nature” to the president under a post with the news that Shavkat Mirziyoyev will attend the Victory Parade on May 9 in Moscow. In particular, the man insulted the president as a “traitor.” He didn’t stop there; the man published a photo from the president’s pilgrimage to Mecca and added derogatory insults to the head of state.

The investigation also found other comments by the man on social networks, in which he called law enforcement officers “rats,” the judicial system “rotten and unfair,” and also insulted everyone who advocates banning Sharia marriage. In addition, the man distributed links to prohibited sites and encouraged people to access them using a VPN. — Insertion K.ru

An amendment to the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan, which provides for liability for public insult or slander of the president using telecommunications networks or the Internet, was introduced at the end of March 2021. Committing such a crime is punishable by correctional labor for up to three years, restriction of freedom from two to five years, or imprisonment for up to five years.

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Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Shavkat Mirziyoyev (foreground left) and Emomali Rahmon

[…] “Fergana” delved into the media space to find out whether there had been similar cases before when Uzbek courts gave a real sentence for swearing or other abuse against the leader of the republic.

Due to youth and misunderstanding

The court in Kattakurgan handed down the verdict on October 26, but Uzbek media began publishing information about the trial only two weeks later. Apparently, so that no one could find the already deleted comment, which became the reason for criminal prosecution.

According to the case materials, a 19-year-old Uzbek national with the initials I.D. and the account dilshod_oke9377 wrote on Instagram (the social network belongs to the Meta corporation, recognized as extremist in the Russian Federation (*country sponsor of terrorism)) offensive words addressed to Mirziyoyev. He did this in the comments under the video with the title President family. At that moment, the guy was in another country – Russia (*aggressor country), where he had been living as a migrant for some time. Perhaps the Kattakurgan resident believed that the distance from his homeland would somehow protect him, but he was mistaken. It didn’t help that, on the advice of his friends, he promptly deleted the publication discrediting the honor and dignity of the head of the republic. The Internet is such a thing that it’s not easy to hide in it: someone will always save it to their disk, take a screenshot of the page, be able to restore erased comments, and so on.

In general, the young man was unlucky – law enforcement officers detected the fact of insulting the president and opened a corresponding criminal case. Having learned about this, the Uzbek citizen voluntarily returned to his native land, where he immediately found himself in the dock. I.D. admitted guilt, justifying himself by saying that he did so “because of his youth and misunderstanding.” But in fact, according to the convict, he never opposed the policies of the current government.

The court took into account repentance and appointed I.D. two and a half years of imprisonment under Part 3 of Article 158 (“Encroachments on the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan”) of the Criminal Code, which prescribes punishment for insulting the head of state, including on the Internet. By the way, the Kattakurgan citizen faced a maximum of five years in prison. In addition, it was decided to block his Instagram account, in connection with which the country’s Ministry of Digital Technologies received a corresponding technical assignment from the court.

Users of social networks and commentators on news resources reacted to the information in different ways. Someone wrote that the court’s decision was correct – there is no point in using profanity against the leader of the country. Others believed that for the first time the authorities could have limited themselves to a fine. There were also those who emphasized the “imbalance of crime and punishment”: the guy who insulted the president received almost the same amount as, for example, former officials from Khorezm, who for a year, at the instigation of the head of the orphanage, raped minor pupils (after the review of the case, the restriction of freedom for them was replaced by three years of colony. – Note from Fergana).

Drunk and crazy

In general, cases of insulting the first person of the state do not often end in real prison time. According to journalists from Gazeta.uz, who studied about ten cases under the article on an attack on the president, in most cases the accused were sentenced to restriction of freedom. The verdict against I.D., as the publication notes, is the first such a severe sentence in many months.

Indeed, recently there have been only a couple of high-profile cases in the Uzbek media that mentioned insults or slander against the former or current leaders of the republic.

In February last year, human rights activists reported on the decision of the Khazarasp district court of the Khorezm region, which sentenced local blogger Sobirzhon Boboniyozov to three years in prison. According to investigators, the Uzbek citizen recorded a video in which he managed to harm his image with abusive words Islam Karimovso Shavkat Mirziyoyeva. Neither lawyers nor the media cited specific insults, but it is known that the guilt of the person involved in the case was proven by specialists who carried out a forensic linguistic examination. Boboniyozov admitted that he recorded videos blaspheming the rulers while intoxicated. When rendering its verdict, the court considered this fact an aggravating circumstance.

Another episode is dated April 2021. Then the prosecutor’s office of the Jizzakh region opened a case of insulting the president against local resident Valijon Kalonov. It was noted that this blogger was known for his critical posts on social networks, but at some point he went too far.

“In his speeches, the accused misinterpreted the reforms carried out under the leadership of the president to the general public, insulted him and disseminated information that humiliated and discredited the image of the head of state,” the regional supervisory agency specified.

It seems that this citizen would have ended up on the bunk if another examination had not intervened in the case – forensic medical examination. Specialists in white coats recognized Kalonov as “mentally unwell.” As a result, he was placed for compulsory treatment in mental hospital No. 1 in the city of Samarkand.

In general, in Uzbekistan, insulting any person is punishable by law. Moreover, there are similar articles both in the code of administrative responsibility and in the Criminal Code: the first time the offender is subject to “administrative charges”, in case of relapse – to criminal charges. However, there is no prison sentence for such acts. That is, even in aggravating circumstances, for example, if you insulted the victim while performing his official duties or were previously convicted of libel, you still won’t get a prison sentence. The maximum set of penalties in this case is as follows:

— fine up to 600 basic calculated values — 198 million soums (more than $16 thousand);

— corrective labor for up to three years;

– restriction of freedom for up to a year.

Swearing at the president is another matter. Although a few years ago, even here, everything was not so scary for ordinary people, because punishment was provided only for insults or slander expressed in the press or other media. Taking into account the fact that hardly anyone would dare to scold the head of state on TV or in newspapers, the number of such cases was reduced to zero. However, as of March 31, 2021, amendments were made to the Criminal Code of the Republic, adding Internet posts to the media.

Now part three of Article 158 of the Criminal Code, according to which swearing users are judged, looks like this: “Public insult or slander against the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as using the press or other media, telecommunications networks or the world wide information network Internet, is punishable by correctional labor for up to three years or restriction of freedom from two to five years or imprisonment for up to five years.”

What about the neighbors?

If you think that punishment for swearing at presidents, whether active or, as in the case of Islam Karimov, even deceased, is the prerogative of Uzbekistan, then you are mistaken. In many countries of the world, including European ones, heads of state are held criminally liable for insulting them. Let’s not go far and turn to the legislation of neighboring republics in the region.

In Turkmenistan, the article is also called “Encroachment on the President” (Article 176 of the Criminal Code) and the maximum punishment is the same as in Uzbekistan – up to five years in prison. However, there is an interesting fact written into the law regulating the Internet in the country. Article 30 of this regulation lists a number of points for which users are responsible in accordance with the law. In particular, materials containing insults and slander against the head of state are included in the list with calls for a change in the constitutional system, propaganda of war, incitement of various hatreds and pornography.

According to the Criminal Code of Tajikistan, for swearing on the Internet or the media against the head of the republic, those guilty may receive from two to five years in prison. Moreover, there are two whole articles: 137 and 137 (1). The differences are that one of them (with a unit in brackets) is dedicated to a specific person who has the title “Founder of Peace and National Unity – Leader of the Nation.” Of course, Emomali Rahmon. Another provides for penalties for publicly insulting the country’s president. But for now this article is “idle”, since in the history of independent Tajikistan there were no other rulers besides the above-mentioned.

A similar practice existed in Kazakhstan. Here, until recently, there were also separate articles devoted simply to the presidents of the country and specifically Nursultan Nazarbayev – aka Elbasy, which means “head of state” or “leader of the nation.” But, as you know, the current leader of the republic Kassym-Jomart Tokayev initiated a constitutional reform, one of the points of which was to delete the mention of his predecessor and his title from the Basic Law. The process of “denazarbayevization” also affected the Criminal Code – Article 373 on publicly insulting Elbasy disappeared from the code in July of this year. Such crimes now fall only under “clone” number 375 “Encroachment on the honor and dignity of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and obstruction of his activities.” For swearing at the leader of the country, published on the Internet, you can be sent to “places not so remote” for up to three years.

Kyrgyzstan stands apart in this list. In the Criminal Code of this country there is no separate punishment for insult or slander against its leader. In general, according to the search engine, the word “President” appears in the document three times: in articles on bribing voters and pardons, and also at the very bottom when indicating that it was the head of state who approved the new edition of the code. This may be due to the fact that, in comparison with its neighbors in Central Asia, presidents in Kyrgyzstan changed unprecedentedly often, although mainly through coups and revolutions.

And finally, one point: the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan and other countries does not spell out the differences between “insult” and “criticism”. In this regard, I would like to wish reasonableness to officials and the judicial system, who should at least clarify this issue for themselves. So that censure of “party policy,” even sometimes using profanity, does not become a reason for violating a person’s right to his own opinion and sending the critic to the dock.