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Uzbekistan11 May 2007

Two years after Andijan, EU urged not to be “accomplice” to continuing repression

Reporters Without Borders today called on the European Union not to lift or ease the sanctions adopted against Uzbekistan in 2005 without getting a clear commitment to respect human rights from the Uzbek government. The European Council is to reexamine the sanctions on 14 May, one day after the second anniversary of the bloody suppression of an uprising in the eastern city of Andijan.

The government’s iron grip on Uzbek society has not let up in the two years since the violent crackdown in Andijan on 13 May 2005, which left hundreds of dead, according to NGOs and journalists who were there.

Among the latest examples of the continuing repression are the seven-year prison sentence imposed on freelance journalist and human rights activist Umida Niyazova, followed by her release at a hearing in which she was forced to confess and recant, and the decision to extend the forced confinement of freelance journalist Jamshid Karimov, the president’s nephew, in a Samarkand psychiatric hospital for another six months.

“We are concerned about the intention of certain EU member states not to set any conditions for the start of a dialogue with Uzbekistan,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If the sanctions adopted in 2005 are lifted or softened by the European Council on 14 May without a tangible commitment from Uzbekistan to improve human rights, the EU could be abandoning journalists and human rights activists to their fate and could damage its credibility.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Europe should not sacrifice the defence of human rights for the sake of access to Uzbek hydrocarbons and it should not become an accomplice to President Karimov’s repressive policies.”

The foreign media can no longer operate in Uzbekistan and their representatives are not given accreditation. The German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle is the latest international news organisation to be forced to close down its bureau, following the BBC and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Among the correspondents of foreign media to have been attacked or arrested are Lobar Qaynarova, Vladislav Chekoyan and Tulkin Karayev.

The Uzbek government passed a law in February 2006 that sanctions the correspondents of foreign media that dare to criticise its policies. It punishes meddling in the country’s “internal affairs” and insulting “the honour and dignity of Uzbek citizens” and says journalists who violate these provisions can be stripped of their accreditation.

The same law also says foreigners and Uzbeks can be prosecuted if they cooperate with non-accredited journalists. Article 21 clearly likens journalists to terrorists, providing for the expulsion of those who advocate “the overthrow of constitutional rule or racial or religious hatred.”

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