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Twenty-three IFEX members call for full acquittal of journalist and human rights activist Umida Niyazova, request EU Council to consider case under sanction review

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - The following is an Adil Soz-led joint letter to Uzbek President Islam Karimov from 23 IFEX members:

President Islam Karimov
Rezidentsia prezidenta, ul. Uzbekistanskaia 43
700163 Tashkent
Tel: 8 10 998 71 139 5304
Fax: + 998 71 139 5325
E-mail: [email protected]

Dear Mr. President,

We, the undersigned member organisations of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), join Adil Soz in welcoming the 8 May 2007 decision of the Uzbek Appeal court to reduce the seven-year prison sentence delivered by Tashkent city court to a three-year suspended sentence against journalist and human rights activist Umida Niyazova, while demanding that she be fully acquitted of all charges.

Local and international human rights organisations have been closely monitoring the case of Niyazova. On 12 March, 14 IFEX members jointly called on the Uzbek authorities to stop criminal prosecution and release the journalist ( see ) following her arrest in January.

On 1 May, Umida Niyazova was sentenced on charges of illegally crossing the border, carrying contraband and producing and disseminating materials considered a "threat to public security and order" under articles 223, 246 and 244 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan, respectively.

Umida Niyazova is the 15th human rights activist in Uzbekistan to receive a prison sentence in a highly politicized trial, following the ruthless repression of civil society that was launched by the Uzbek government after the Andijan massacre of 2005.

Niyazova was arrested on 22 January 2007. She had been working for the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations since 2000, while also employed with Internews-Uzbekistan and Freedom House, making significant contributions to the establishment of independent Uzbek journalism. Since the closure of all international organizations in Uzbekistan, she began working for Human Rights Watch as a translator.

We remain concerned that Umida Niyazova's freedom is not unconditional and consider the sentence and remaining restrictions against her to be in direct contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly Article 19 thereof, which binds Uzbekistan, as a signatory, to protect freedom of expression.

Despite the fact that the journalist was freed by the court on appeal, we still believe that the charges upon which she was found guilty are illegal and unjustified. We are requesting of the European Union that it consider the case of Umida Niyazova when it reviews its policy on sanctions against Uzbekistan on 14 May, in accordance with the EU Council's criteria of "actions of the Uzbek government in the area of human rights."

We, the undersigned demand that:
- the journalist be fully acquitted of the charges against her
- the conditions of release restricting the journalist's ability to exercise her profession be removed
- the Uzbek government respect its binding commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by openly recognizing journalists' and citizens' right to hold opinions different from those of the state.


Adil Soz
Human Rights Watch
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International PEN
World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)
Reporters sans frontières (RSF)
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
Cartoonists Rights Network (CRN)
South East Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) - Moldova
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
Arab Archives Institute (AAI)
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
National Centre for Social Communication (CENCOS)
Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP)
Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia (OLPEC)
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Freedom House
Index on Censorship

Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech

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