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ARTICLE 19 wins key case at UN Human Rights Committee

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 11 May 2009 - On 19 March 2009, the UN Human Rights Committee issued its decision in the case of Mavlonov and Sa'di v. Uzbekistan, which ARTICLE 19 lodged with the Committee in November 2004. In the case, ARTICLE 19 argued that the refusal of the Uzbek authorities to re-register the first applicant's newspaper was a breach of his right to freedom of expression, and also a breach of the second applicant's right as a reader of the newspaper. The Committee accepted both arguments, with important implications in terms of the right to freedom of expression.

In finding a breach of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Committee stated:

"[The first applicant's] ability to publish 'Oina' and to impart information, and [the second applicant's] right to receive information and ideas in print, has been violated."

The Committee also found a breach of the right to culture, as protected by Article 27 of the ICCPR, given the important role of Oina, a minority language newspaper, in the Tajik community.

ARTICLE 19 applauds this decision by the UN Human Rights Committee, which is groundbreaking in several respects. The Committee held that the application of the registration procedure itself breached the right to freedom of expression. While the Committee did not specifically elaborate on what conditions registration systems must meet, the decision is important inasmuch as it clearly demonstrates that registration must not impose unreasonable barriers to the operation of media outlets. Even more important was the recognition by the Committee of the right of the second applicant, as a reader. This is an extremely significant development and potentially opens up the way to a whole new line of freedom of expression argumentation.

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