CPJ condemns closure of Internews

New York, September 12, 2005
– The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned a civil court ruling ordering the closure of the Tashkent office of Internews Network, a U.S.-based media training and advocacy organization. Internews said the court made its ruling on Friday on the basis of the August 4, 2005 criminal conviction of two Internews employees for technical violations such as broadcasting without a license and using an unregistered logo.

“They gave us one day’s notice about the hearing and then sped through the proceedings at an incredible rate,” said Catherine Eldridge, director of 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,” she said in a statement. Internews said it planned to appeal.

The prosecution of Internews staff is part of a broader campaign of harassment of independent journalists and media who do not toe the government line. The crackdown intensified after troops in the northeast city of Andijan shot dead between 500 and 1,000 civilians during anti-government protests on May 13, according to local and international human rights organizations and eyewitnesses.

“We call on the Uzbek authorities to stop this legal harassment of Internews Network,”
CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “These are politicized trials in which due process is not respected. We hope that the appeal court will see this when it examines the evidence and overturn this latest ruling,” she added.

Former Internews director Khalida Anarbayeva and accountant Olga Narmuradova will not serve a six-month jail sentence under the terms of a presidential amnesty for women but they will have criminal records, according to press reports and CPJ sources.