The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for the immediate release of media researcher Umida Niazova, who has been detained by authorities in Uzbekistan due to work she has done for non-governmental organizations.
The IFJ has previously protested the abuses of press freedom and human rights in Uzbekistan. The government has in the past expelled foreign journalists who covered protests and tried to curtail media coverage under the guise of “fighting terrorism.” Uzbek journalists have been jailed and beaten when they attempted to cover protests in the country.
“It appears that Umida is being charged by authorities in an attempt to put an end to her media and human rights work,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “We are calling on the authorities to immediate release Umida or provide evidence that she has in fact broken the law.”
Niyazova was contributing to the research of the Danish NGO International Media Support (IMS) about how 'extremism' and ' terrorism' is covered in the local media when she was arrested. She also worked for human rights NGO Human Rights Watch and Veritas, an unregistered Uzbek nongovernmental human rights organization. According to Human Rights Watch, Niazova has been charged with bringing “extremist” literature across the border and illegal border crossing. If convicted of both charges she could face jail time of up to 20 years.
IMS has said that it fears her detention may be related to her contribution to the group’s research.
Niazova, was arrested near the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border on 22 January and was not permitted to talk to her lawyer until 26 January, according to reports. Authorities had initially detained her on 21 December 21 at the Tashkent airport, confiscated her laptop and passport and threatened her with criminal charges of possession of anti-state materials on her laptop computer. She was then released.
Niazova’s lawyer told her in mid-January that an expert commission found no grounds for bringing charges against her and that she could get retrieve her laptop and passport. She missed a meeting with her lawyer on 22 January to get her property and was not able to contact anyone until 26 January.
Now observers say the accusations against her have not been dropped.
“Uzbekistan has an “appalling human rights record based upon a systematic policy of repression,” White said. “When there is something that government wants to keep quiet, the local media are gagged, the foreign media are often told to pack up their bags and go home, and independent reporting is routinely stifled.”
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide