Washington Babylon — November 13, 2009, 9:32 am

Blogger Junket to Uzbekistan: Torture chambers likely not among tour stops

A short while back I noted here that Gulnara Karimova, daughter and henchwoman of Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, had recently hosted rock star Sting in Tashkent, the nation’s capital. Sting took in a fashion show and other events with Gulnara, whose father’s regime killed one prisoner by immersion in boiling water, and in 2005 slaughtered hundreds of protesters in the town of Andijan. “The scale of this killing was so extensive, and its nature was so indiscriminate and disproportionate, that it can best be described as a massacre,” Human Rights Watch said in a study of the events at Andijan.

Now Gulnara has hired an American firm to bring bloggers to “a gala event in Tashkent,” to quote an email that Chris Stone, vice president at Atlas International
Partners
, has been sending to invitees. The email says that the event will “showcase the work of young Uzbek artists” and is being sponsored by the Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundation, which is chaired by Gulnara Karimova. Here’s an excerpt from the email:

The Foundation wants to bring a couple of well-known bloggers over to Tashkent to live-blog the event — and it would like at least one to be a public policy or foreign affairs blogger, undoubtedly because Ms. Karimova is a political figure in Uzbekistan in her own right. That said, the live blogging would involve talking about the cultural and artistic aspects of the event, and your touristic impressions of Uzbekistan; it should not be overtly political…We believe that the Foundation’s primary aim is to get people talking about Uzbekistan as a cultural destination, like Egypt, rather than a place people think about only when there is a crisis in Central Asia.

We can offer you $1,000 in compensation, and would cover business-class airfare from the US to Tashkent (you would probably leave on the 14th or 15th and return the 18th or 19th, although you’re welcome to extend your visit if you want), your stay in the Intercontinental Hotel in Tashkent, and incidentals such as meals and visa fees.

Finally, I should emphasize that I am making this inquiry on a preliminary basis; the Foundation has to approve our proposal. I understand that Ms. Karimova is reviewing the proposal personally and will get back to us within the next 24 hours, which would be necessary to get your visa processed on Friday. Our feeling is that she is likely to give us a green light, so I am assembling a team of bloggers now.

If you are interested, it would be helpful if you can let me know as soon possible. It would also be helpful to know how many hits per day your blog receives and whether you would be interested in writing about the event in any of the print media to which you contribute.

I’m not sure who is on Gulnara’s “team” of bloggers, but if you start reading posts later this month about the exciting arts world of Tashkent, it’s a safe bet that it will be the handiwork of one of the junketeers. And for those who want to go, you can suck up to Stone by telling him that you’re a big fan of Gulnara’s music. Just don’t say anything about Andijan.

I called Stone and he tells me that his firm offers “strategic advisory” services and that Gulnara is “trying to position herself as a patron of the arts.” He asked if I was interested in going and I said I was not. I asked if he didn’t think it was unethical for journalists to accept an offer of money and travel to a place like Uzbekistan, especially when it was clearly expected that nothing unfavorable would be written. “I guess it would depend on whether the blogger was a journalist or not,” he said. “Travel writers get paid to go to places all the time.”

Stone would not disclose which bloggers were going on the junket but he told me that he had approached Abovethelaw.com and suggested strongly that a blogger there had agreed to go on the Uzbek trip. However, he refused to answer a direct question about that.

I emailed the blog’s editor, Elie Mystal, and associate editor, Kashmir Hill, to see if they could clarify the matter. They have not yet replied to my email; if they do, I’ll update this post immediately.

Update: Hill emailed back now to say: “This comes as news to me. i don’t know anything about it.”

Managing editor David Lat says: “As far as I know, neither I nor anyone at Above the Law is going to Uzbekistan!”

So the list of junketeers remains entirely unknown.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

July 2015

One Day Less

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Dressed to Kill

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Wrong Prescription?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Travel Day

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Fugue State

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Avian Voices·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The mockingbird’s bath is an orgy of thrashing and writhing about. When he has finished, one of the innocents alights on the rim of the basin and looks with disbelief at the thimble of water remaining.”
Illustration by Eric Hanson
[Browsings]
Before the War·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I’m worried that what the Houthis did to push Yemen into a civil conflict in September 2014, the Saudis may end up doing again when they end their campaign by eliminating the Houthis.”
Photograph by Alex Potter
Article
The Speakeasy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In order to understand how Marty’s could survive as an institution, I returned a year after my first visit to spend a week at what was sure to be the world’s bleakest comedy club.”
Photograph by Mike Slack
Post
The Lost Land·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I had first encountered some of these volumes—A Swiftly Tilting Planet, The Giver—as a child, and during adolescence, they registered as postcards from a homeland recently abandoned.”
Photograph by the author
Article
Wrong Prescription?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Whatever the slogans suggested, the A.C.A. was never meant to include everyone.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery

Estimated cost of the environmental damage caused each year by the world’s 3,000 largest companies:

$2,200,000,000,000

Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage.

Beekeepers began extracting 1 million honeybees living beneath the siding of a house in New York State.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today