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Uzbekistan23 March 2006

New resolution treats journalists like terrorists

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the foreign ministry’s decision to withdraw press accreditation from Obid Shabanov, the correspondent of the German public radio station Deutsche Welle in the southern region of Bukhara, under a repressive new resolution that targets journalists working for foreign news media who dare to criticise government policies.

“The foreign press is still paying the consequences of the bloody crackdown in Andijan in May of last year,” the press freedom organisations said. “After the bans on the BBC, the American media NGO Internews and Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, it is now Deutsche Welle’s turn. The Uzbek government has taken one more step towards total news control.”

The government passed by resolution on 24 February punishes foreign media journalists who meddle “in internal affairs” or insult “the honour and dignity of Uzbek citizens.” Foreign journalists are placed under permanent suspicion of wanting to overthrow the regime. The resolution allows for accreditation to be cancelled or not renewed, and the procedure for requesting registration is extended from 10 days to two months.

Independent journalists are particularly affected by the new resolution. Articles 22 and 23 introduce additional restrictions banning both Uzbek and foreign citizens from cooperating with non-accredited journalists under pain of prosecution. Article 21 clearly likens journalists to terrorists by providing for the expulsion of those who call “for the overthrow of the constitutional order or for racial or religious hatred.”

Shabanov is the new resolution’s first victim. His accreditation was withdrawn on 15 March on the grounds that he included false information in a dispatch for Deutsche Welle on 1 February, when he reported that some 30 people had died tragically in a bus. They had died of cold in a Moscow-bound bus that had absolutely no heating.

Another Deutsche Welle correspondent, Salikh Yakhyev, who also works for the news website, has being given a warning for not having official accreditation. Yuri Chernogayev, the Tashkent correspondent of Deutsche Welle and the Russian daily Kommersant, has also received a warning for working with a non-accredited journalist.

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