Committee to Protect Journalists demands the release of Umida Niyazova
International organizations monitoring press freedom have called on the Uzbek authorities to release independent journalist and human rights researcher who has been arrested and charged with “illegal border crossing” and “smuggling of subversive literature,” under Uzbekistans penal code; each charge carries up to 10 years in prison.
Niyazova, 32 and a single mother of a 2-year-old-son, was first detained on December 21, 2006, by Tashkent airport police when she arrived from a trip to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Police confiscated her passport and laptop computer, before releasing her the same day. Authorities told her they would screen the computer for “anti-constitutional documents and documents that threaten the [Uzbek] government,” said Andrea Berg, head of the Human Rights Watch office in Tashkent.
Niyazova returned to Bishkek after the incident, where she sought asylum through the UNHCR. Following advice from her lawyer Abror Yusupov, who assured her that authorities had not found anti-constitutional materials on her computer, Niyazova returned to Uzbekistan on January 22, according to CPJ sources in the region.
“We call on Uzbek authorities to immediately release Umida Niyazova and to drop the trumped-up charges against her,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. A similar call came from the Centre for Extreme Journalism.