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Uzbekistan2 May 2005

Correspondent for an American news agency refused accreditation

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Reporters Without Borders has condemned the refusal to accredit a journalist working for the US news agency United Press International (UPI) on the grounds that she did not have a journalism degree.

Marina Kozlova, Uzbek correspondent for UPI had been turned down for accreditation by the foreign ministry in Tashkent on a "false pretext", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

She had proved her professionalism for ten years. "The state of relations between Uzbekistan and the United States should not prevent this journalist from being allowed to peacefully do her job."

"We urge Foreign Minister Elyor Ganyev to accredit UPI’s only correspondent in Uzbekistan as soon as possible," it added.

Kozlova was told by foreign ministry spokesman Ilkhom Zakirov on 27 April that her request for accreditation was being turned down. "We have carefully examined your application but we cannot grant it to you because you do not have a journalism degree," he said.

Kozlova graduated from the Tashkent Textile Institute and began working as a journalist in 1994 for the Uzbek monthly Nalogovye i Tamozhenniye Vesti. She next worked for the Russian agency Prime Tass and then for the Russian weekly Obchaja Gazeta. She has been correspondent for UPI since 1999, covering Uzbekistan but also Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Russia. The foreign ministry previously accredited her from 1998 to 2003.

"At a summer 2003 press conference I asked Vladimir Norov, first deputy minister of foreign affairs, for news of Ruslan Sharipov who was then in prison and is now in exile in the United States", Kozlova told Reporters Without Borders. "The following day I was denied access to another press conference and in the autumn of 2003 my accreditation was withdrawn."

"Many Uzbek reporters do not have journalism degrees and a lot of them have studied to be engineers, philosophers or historians. The root of the problem is that the government denies accreditation to journalists who are considered disobedient," she said.

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