The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly dismayed by your ministry's repeated and unfair denial of press accreditation to Marina Kozlova, Tashkent correspondent for United Press International (UPI).
Kozlova has worked as a journalist in Uzbekistan for 10 years and was officially accredited by the Foreign Ministry from 1998 to 2003, first as a correspondent for the Russian weekly Obshchaya Gazeta and since 1999 as a correspondent for UPI. Kozlova has faced repeated harassment in retaliation for her reporting on the mistreatment of journalists, human rights abuses by police, and torture in Uzbek prisons.
The Foreign Ministry, which is responsible for accrediting correspondents for international news agencies, denied accreditation to Kozlova in November 2003. The decision has obstructed her ability to report on political developments in Uzbekistan by barring her from attending presidential, parliamentary, and foreign ministry meetings and press conferences.
UPI sought accreditation on her behalf again in February 2005, but Foreign Ministry press secretary Ilkhom Zakirov told Kozlova on April 27 that the ministry would not accredit her because she does not have a journalism degree.
The Foreign Ministry's Web site does not list a journalism degree as a requirement for accreditation. It cites only one criterion for denial or suspension of accreditation: breaking the law. When CPJ contacted Zakirov by telephone on May 4, he would not provide any information about the accreditation process nor would he explain the decision against Kozlova. The Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in the United States did not return numerous phone messages seeking information.
The record shows a pattern of unfair treatment of Kozlova. The Foreign Ministry briefly denied her press accreditation in May 2001 on grounds that she dressed inappropriately, had the wrong hairstyle for a journalist, and engaged in defiant behavior. Kozlova was issued accreditation 10 days later, after UPI and the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent protested.
In August 2003, before her accreditation was officially pulled, Zakirov prevented Kozlova from attending the opening session of Parliament. Zakirov told Kozlova that her presence was unwanted, but he did not elaborate. The move came shortly after a press conference at which Kozlova asked then-Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov about the fate of Ruslan Sharipov, an independent journalist and human rights activist imprisoned on politicized charges.
The Foreign Ministry's actions in this case come against a troubling backdrop. In May 2003 and October 2003, the Foreign Ministry denied accreditation to the Tashkent bureau of the London-based Institute of War & Peace Reporting in retaliation for its reporting on human rights abuses and criticism of government policies.
Mr. Ganiev, we believe that your ministry has unjustly denied accreditation to Marina Kozlova in retaliation for her reporting on human rights abuses and other sensitive topics. We call on you to reverse this decision and accredit Kozlova immediately.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.