Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, pictured in September 2017, is due to travel to the U.S. in May 2018. CPJ joins calls for human rights to be made a priority during his trip. (AFP/Vyacheslav Oseledko)

CPJ joins calls for Congress to make human rights a focus of Uzbek president's US visit

By Gulnoza Said/ CPJ Europe and Central Asia Research Associate on May 16, 2018 10:04 AM ET

The Committee to Protect Journalists joined a coalition of 11 other international press freedom and human rights advocacy groups, in calling on U.S. Congress to require lasting human rights protection in Uzbekistan during President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's first official visit to the U.S. on May 16 and 17.

Mirziyoyev's meeting with President Donald Trump on May 16 comes at a time when the Uzbek government has taken positive steps to improve human rights, but Mirziyoyev needs to ensure sustainable, structural improvements, the joint statement, led by Human Rights Watch, said.

Since taking office in September 2016, Mirziyoyev has ordered the release of over two dozen political prisoners, including journalists. Since the May 7 release of journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev and blogger Hayot Nasriddinov, there are no journalists in Uzbek jails for the first time in two decades, according to CPJ research. The government relaxed some restrictions on freedom of expression and permitted a U.S. journalist to report in Uzbekistan.

"We commend President Mirziyoyev on the release of all imprisoned journalists in Uzbekistan and call on him to continue his reforms by allowing all Uzbek journalists forced into exile after the 2005 Andijan crisis to return home and resume working without fear of retaliation," said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. "We urge U.S. leaders meeting with the Uzbek president this week to prioritize this issue."

The joint statement urged members of Congress to raise the need for continued improvements to rights during Mirziyoyev's White House visit.

To read the joint statement click here.

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