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Uzbek Journalist Honored For Her 'Sacrifice, Risk' For Human Rights


Umida Niyazova

Umida Niyazova

Independent Uzbek journalist Umida Niyazova is one of five activists to be recognized for the 2008 Human Rights Defender Awards, sponsored by the New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"Niyazova embodies the struggle of Uzbek human rights defenders who, in spite of government repression, continue to speak out against the government’s abuses," HRW said. "At great personal sacrifice and risk," HRW says Niyazova has "advocated on behalf of her fellow citizens and compelled the international community to scrutinize the Uzbek government’s deplorable human rights record."

Niyazova, a contributor to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, covered the bloody government crackdown on protesters in the eastern city of Andijon in May 2005 and its aftermath. She also worked for RFE/RL on a program titled "The Time Of My Destiny" and prepared a range of interviews with victims of political repressions in Uzbekistan.

This is the idea of a democracy. If we want to build civil society, criticism of the authorities must be allowed.
She was arrested in January 2007 and convicted in May 2007 for "distributing material causing public disorder," charges widely seen as being politically motivated. "This is the idea of a democracy," she told the court. "If we want to build civil society, criticism of the authorities must be allowed."

She was sentenced to seven years in prison. She was eventually granted amnesty, with the understanding she would not take up her human rights or journalistic activities within Uzbekistan again.

Her release came as Uzbekistan freed a few other imprisoned activists in a "token gesture," HRW says, in response to criticism from the European Union and the United States.

Also being recognized by HRW as Human Rights Defenders in 2008 are:

Bo Kyi, a co-founder of Burma’s Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.

Mathilde Muhindo, who works to stop the use of rape as a weapon of war in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Abd al-Rahman al-Lahim, a human rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia.

And Sunila Abeysekera, founder of the Sri Lankan human rights group INFORM.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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