Over the years of independence, Uzbekistan has implemented comprehensive measures to reform the entire social and political life of the country and identified further priority areas for these reforms. An emphasis is paid to further development of the media. “Currently, Uzbekistan has 2,140 media outlets. 626 more than in 2016. Among them, 65 percent are non-state media, which indicates the ongoing structural transformations in the sphere. It should be noted that along with traditional media outlets, online publications are rapidly developing too. Their number of increased to 745, and their audience is steadily growing,” said the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in his message on the occasion of the Day of Press and Media Workers on June 27, 2023.
Media are considered to be the most important institution of the society, which functions between the state power and the people. The timely and professional work of media professionals directly influences public and government’s awareness on everything happening in the country. Effective communication in this direction contributes to a clearer and more correct fulfillment of all the tasks of reforms. At the same time, the country also pays great attention to the issue of observing guarantees in ensuring freedom of speech and access to information, achieving greater transparency.
The foundations for the further development of these principles were laid as far back as in the Strategy for Action for the Further Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The document systematized the legislative basis for ensuring legal regulation of the activities of the mass media and the activities and protection of the professional rights of journalists.
All this comprehensive and clearly defined media legislation was aimed at enhancing the role and effectiveness of the work of journalists, providing them with democratic legal guarantees, and at the same time also ensuring the openness of the activities of all administrative structures in the country. During the rather short initial phase of reform in the media sphere, lawmakers have done extensive work to ensure freedom of expression, access to information and media development.
At the current stage of reforms in the media sphere due to the rapid development of the Internet, online media, mobile journalism, the development of the blogsphere, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI), the media landscape in Uzbekistan came across a new tasks and new ways to their fulfillment. As part of further liberalization of media activities and ensuring the rights of journalists and bloggers, serious amendments and additions were made to a number of laws. Lawmakers started working on creating an updated legislative framework. The tasks of establishing an open dialog with the population and introducing accountability of officials to the public through the extensive use of media channels were expanded.
The level of openness and citizens’ assessment of the activities of state bodies are also determined thanks to the articles preprepared by journalists and bloggers. Based on the provisions of the Law of Uzbekistan “On Public Control,” the role of journalists in this process is being strengthened. The President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev has repeatedly pointed out that “...fair criticism of objective journalists and bloggers points at the mistakes and shortcomings of old-fashioned leaders, forcing them to change their style of work and increase their responsibility. In their pieces journalists began to pay more attention to those negative phenomena in society or shortcomings of the authorities, violations of citizens’ rights, which prevent the progressive movement of reforms forward.”
Since 2019, the Agency for Information and Mass Communications under the Administration of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan has been operating in the country. Its tasks include ensuring the realization of the constitutional rights of citizens to freedom of speech and information, strengthening the role of the media in the socio-political and socio-economic development of the country, creating equal conditions for them in the media market, as well as protecting the rights of journalists. In accordance with the tasks assigned to it, the Agency also takes measures provided for by law to prevent unlawful restriction of freedom of information, censorship, and the dissemination in the media, information resources posted on the Internet and printed publications of information the dissemination of which is prohibited or restricted, as well as to counter fakes.
The legislative level also defines the principles of media protection in matters of cybersecurity and the need to counter information threats in a timely and effective manner. In 2022, the country adopted the Law on Cybersecurity against crimes committed in cyberspace using software and technical means to seize, modify, destroy or hack information systems and resources.
It should be noted that in recent years, the risks and threats to society from regular cyberattacks have significantly increased. Preservation of fundamental properties of information such as confidentiality, integrity, availability, and more is achieved by information protection measures. For examples, information protection is an action to ensure information security of data of organizations, citizens, and the state. These tasks are solved with the help of various types of protective measures. Therefore, journalists are also required to take an active part in ensuring information security of the republic and implementing measures for timely and adequate counteraction to challenges and threats in the information sphere.
Today, it is safe to say that Uzbekistan’s mass media, like all other socio-political structures in the country, are at the stage of serious reform for further progressive development and in accordance with the requirements of the time.