Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Uzbekistan brings charges against news organisation
Upping the stakes in a year-long campaign to limit the activities of western non-governmental democracy organizations, Uzbek authorities have brought criminal charges against Internews, a leading international media rights organization. Internews Network, a US based non-profit media organization, began operations in Uzbekistan in 1995 where it has helped develop Uzbekistan's independent, private television stations through trainings, technical assistance and support of local news and information programming.
On Monday the Uzbek government formally charged local Internews Network staff with conspiracy to engage in productions of videos and publications of informational materials without the necessary licenses. A former Internews director, and an Internews accountant, is charged with violating Article 190(2) b of the Uzbek criminal code - a crime punishable by up to six months in prison.
Pressure on Internews and other democracy organizations escalated after popular uprisings in neighboring Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. A massacre of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in the city of Andijan on May 13th brought demands by the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the U.S. government and others for an independent investigation. In spite of these appeals, pressures on international NGOs working in the country have only increased.
In pursuing its case against Internews, the Ministry of Justice has demanded that Internews cease educating lawyers involved in the field of mass media, close down the activities of its Media Resource Center for Fergana Valley in the city of Namangan, stop publishing the periodicals Vestnik TV (TV News) and Erkin Soz (Freedom of Speech), and end production of two popular TV news programs.
When we last checked, Internews's Uzbekistan web site seemed to have been taken down. Their international site is here.