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Azerbaijani authorities placed a five-year travel ban on Khadija Ismayilova in 2016.

Two UN human rights experts are urging Azerbaijan to lift its travel ban on investigative journalist and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova in order to strengthen media freedom in the country.

David Kaye and Michel Forst, UN Human Rights Council special rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression and the situation of human rights defenders, respectively, said in a December 5 statement, “The measures against Ismayilova by the authorities go far beyond what is legitimate. It is detrimental to her individual case and also to the exercise of independent journalism in the country.”

Ismayilova was invited to speak at a seminar and to receive an award for her investigative work on December 1 but was unable to attend because of a five-year travel ban placed on her in 2016.

“Khadija Ismayilova’s courageous work as an investigative journalist has earned her a Right Livelihood Award for 2017, which she is unable to receive because the very same work has been used to place her under the travel ban,” Kaye and Forst said.

“The ban stifles her right to freedom of expression as it is aimed at preventing her from traveling abroad to speak about human rights issues," they said. "We urge the authorities to lift it and to ensure that journalism is not being restricted under false pretenses.”

Ismayilova -- who has unsuccessfully challenged the travel ban in court -- has also been invited to an event at the Graduate Institute of Geneva on December 6.

After spending nearly 18 months in jail on charges widely viewed as retaliation for her investigative work, Ismayilova was released in May 2016.

Kaye and Forst also criticized a November 14 court decision that froze Ismayilova’s bank account and prevents her from receiving award money, which they said hinders her work as a journalist.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has signed a decree on introducing new visas allowing foreigners to stay in the Central Asian country for 30 days.

According to the decree made public by the Tourism Ministry on December 4, the cost of a tourist visa for individuals was cut from $60 to $40.

Before the decree, tourist visas were given for one week or 15 days only.

The decree also cut the number of people for so-called tourist groups from 10 people to five. Visa costs for a member of a tourist group is $15 for 15 days and $25 for 30 days.

Mirziyoev's move to allow foreigners to stay longer in Uzbekistan on one visa is one of a number of initiatives that appear aimed at opening up the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Mirziyoev came to power after the death of longtime autocrat Islam Karimov, which was announced in September 2016.

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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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