In yet another blow to democracy and freedom of speech in Uzbekistan, Internews Network, a leading international media development organization, has been ordered by the Uzbek authorities to close its office in Uzbekistan. Internews plans to appeal the verdict.
A Tashkent city court on Friday found Internews Network guilty of a number of violations of Uzbek law and told it to leave the country. The US-based non-profit organization began operations in Uzbekistan in 1995 where it has helped develop the country’s independent, private television stations through trainings, technical assistance and support of local news and information programming.
“They gave us one day’s notice about the hearing and then sped through the proceedings at an incredible rate," said Catherine Eldridge, Country Director for Internews Network in Uzbekistan. “The judge refused our request to call witnesses, denied all our petitions and was blatantly biased. This is obviously a politically motivated case.”
Eldridge added, “The closure of Internews Network sets a precedent for the Uzbek government to liquidate other foreign NGOs on the basis of biased court cases and trumped up or trivial charges. This case and the criminal case against our two employees last month were a terrible loss for independent media and human rights in Uzbekistan."
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
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