Uzbekistan denies entry to Polish journalist who criticized the country

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A Polish journalist who accused an Uzbek official of harassment and wrote criticism of the country was refused entry to Uzbekistan on Sunday.

The journalist told VOA that she was detained at the Uzbek border with Kazakhstan for more than a day before state security took her to Tashkent airport, from where she came. flew to Istanbul.

“They took me to Tashkent airport under surveillance,” Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska said as she waited for a flight to Poland. “I don’t understand why I was banned from entering Uzbekistan, but I will try to get an official response.”

Uzbek authorities have not publicly commented on the incident. The Uzbek embassy in Washington did not respond to VOA’s request for comment, sent Tuesday evening.

Pikulicka-Wilczewska worked for international media such as Al-Jazeera, The Guardian, The Diplomat and Eurasianet, and she was one of the few foreign journalists working in Uzbekistan.

But she encountered problems with the authorities.

Pikulicka-Wilczewska said that earlier this year the Foreign Ministry rejected several requests to extend his press accreditation. She also alleged that one of the ministry officials sexually harassed her and pressured her to write positive articles.

The Foreign Ministry apologized and extended its media accreditation for three months. He said he fired the official, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported at the time.

But in June, the ministry said it would no longer extend accreditation due to “violations of the law.”

FILE – Blogger Miraziz Bazarov lies on a stretcher upon arrival at hospital after being beaten by a group of unidentified men in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, March 29, 2021.

The country’s interior ministry also accused the journalist of bias and lawlessness after reporting an attack on blogger and gay rights activist Miraziz Bazarov.

Bazarov was hospitalized with serious injuries after being beaten in Tashkent in March. Pikulicka-Wilczewska interviewed him and then criticized law enforcement on social media.

In response, the Home Office released a statement accusing the journalist of trying to discredit law enforcement with fake news and violate the country’s media laws. [[ https://tashkenttimes.uz/national/6683-interior-ministry-accuses-foreign-journalist-of-abusing-freedom-of-media ]]

Pikulicka-Wilczewska denies any wrongdoing.

When speaking to VOA, she said she planned to continue her work in Uzbekistan, which included writing a book on the environment under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

When arrested at the border, Pikulicka-Wilczewska tweeted: “I arrived in Uzbekistan over 3 years ago hoping change was possible. I am left convinced that under the current government no systemic change is taking place. ‘will never take place. “

Uzbekistan has a poor press freedom record, ranking 157th out of 180 countries, where 1 is the freest, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Freedom of speech is limited, but bloggers and social media users are finding more space to address issues deemed prohibited under the regime of late President Islam Karimov.

President Mirziyoyev said that “many local officials do not like sharp and critical content” in the media, but that “openness and freedom of expression are the demand of the times, the demand for reforms in Uzbekistan “.

This article comes from the Uzbek service of VOA.


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