Stockholm, June 2, 2021 – The Uzbek foreign ministry should immediately renew the press accreditation of Polish journalist Agnieszka Pikulicka and ensure that all journalists are free to report without fear of reprisal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan rejected the application of Pikulicka, a freelance correspondent for Al-Jazeera and The Guardian based in Tashkent, the capital, to renew her press accreditation, according to a statement by a foreign ministry spokesperson posted to Telegram, the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a letter from the foreign ministry which Pikulicka posted on Twitter.
The letter states that the accreditation was rejected on account of her work “degrading the honor and dignity of citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan,” “interfering in the internal affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan,” “propagandizing ethnic and religious discord,” and violating a law called “On the defense of children from information harmful to their health.”
Pikulicka said she believes that the rejection is retaliation for her reporting on LGBT issues in the country. On April 1, the Uzbek interior ministry issued a statement accusing Pikulicka of spreading “negative and unobjective information” about Uzbekistan and violating three articles of the country’s media laws with her tweets reporting on LGBT rights advocate Miraziz Bazarov, as CPJ documented at the time.
“Denying accreditation to a journalist on account of her news coverage is simply unacceptable,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator in New York. “Uzbek authorities should immediately reinstate Agnieszka Pikulicka’s press accreditation and ensure that she and others are able to report on sensitive issues in safety.”
The journalist told CPJ that her ability to stay in Uzbekistan does not depend on the renewal of her accreditation, but that she doesn’t know if she will be able to continue her reporting.
CPJ emailed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan for comment but did not receive a reply.
In a tweet today, Pikulicka described the foreign ministry’s decision as “an attempt to silence” her and “a sign that there is little change” in Uzbekistan.
In February this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan backtracked on a decision to deny Pikulicka accreditation and issued an apology after the journalist said on Twitter that she had been pressured to write “positive” articles about the country and subjected to sexual harassment during the accreditation application process, according to the U.S.-Congress funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Editor’s note: The name of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been corrected in the ninth paragraph.