Uzbekistan TV show chastised for shaming public lovers

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

Image source, MY5
Image caption, A MY5 presenter (right, backward baseball cap) confronts courting couples in a Tashkent park

A television channel in Uzbekistan has stirred up anger from both viewers and the government after it aired a programme that "exposed" public displays of affection among young couples.

The Yashirin Kamera (Hidden Camera) programme on the MY5 entertainment channel showed several instances of lovers hugging and kissing on benches, their faces blurred, in a central park in the capital Tashkent.

The show's presenter tried to interview several of the couples, asking awkward questions such as: "Is this the right thing to do?"

Last week's episode led to the channel receiving an official warning from the Uzbek Justice Ministry, which says that Yashirin Kamera "goes against basic human rights and privacy laws", Fergana news agency reports. The notice goes on to call the producers of the programme "unprofessional".

Uzbekistan is a Muslim majority country where public displays of love are usually frowned upon as immoral behaviour. But, as one government official told Fergana, "We are building a secular state and a democratic society," adding that kissing in public is not illegal.

Image source, Uzbekistan Justice Ministry
Image caption, The Uzbek Justice Ministry is very displeased with the MY5 TV channel

'Is this Islamic?'

Viewers responding to a clip from the programme on Facebook were largely critical. "What gives them the right to intrude on people's private lives?" asked one user. "The Justice Ministry was right in reacting this way to this show and its illiterate authors," said another.

Others thought that Uzbekistan had enough problems without the channel picking apart the private lives of people in the park. "Let MY5 show how teachers and medical workers are being made to clean the streets," read one comment.

However, there were those who supported the show's idea, and interpreted the ministry's opposition as an official endorsement for unmarried young lovers to behave in "un-Islamic ways" as long as they do not break the law.

"Does that mean it is OK for our young daughters to sit right next to young men, hugging each other? I see so many of them shamelessly do immoral things in public. Is this Islamic?!" one Facebook user asked. Another said: "Let them now have sex out in the streets while you stand by, applauding them. If we do not act now, it will get worse tomorrow".

Yashirin Kamera host Badriddin Husnidinov seems unrepentant despite the government notice. He told Radio Ozodliq that he would "continue filming fellow young people kissing and hugging in public places and showing them to others every week until the measures against this immorality start producing results".

Image source, MY5
Image caption, Walk away: A young couple leaves the park after being confronted by Yashirin Kamera

Use #NewsfromElsewhere to stay up-to-date with our reports via Twitter.