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Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska (file photo)

An independent Polish journalist who earlier this year accused an Uzbek Foreign Ministry official of sexual harassment and pressuring her to write positive articles about the country, says she has been banned from entering the Central Asian state for unspecified reasons.

Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska tweeted on November 8 that she was stranded at a checkpoint along the Uzbek-Kazakh border, after Uzbek border guards refused to allow her to enter the country.

"I came to Uzbekistan over three years ago hoping that change was possible. I'm leaving convinced that under current government no systemic change will ever take place," Pikulicka-Wilczewska wrote on Twitter, questioning democratic reforms promised by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev, who was reelected last month.

The Uzbek government has been trying for some time to limit the activities of Pikulicka-Wilczewska.

Earlier in June, Uzbek authorities reluctantly extended the journalist's accreditation after international rights and media groups raised concerns over the issue.

In early February, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry officially apologized to Pikulicka-Wilczewska, a former Al-Jazeera correspondent who also worked for The Guardian and Eurasianet, for the behavior of a ministry employee whom the journalist publicly accused of sexual harassment and pressuring her to write positive articles about the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

The situation around the Polish journalist and ongoing crackdown on bloggers and independent reporters have put under question the democratization reforms Mirziyoev announced after he took over following the death of his authoritarian predecessor, Islam Karimov, in 2016.

Uzbekistan is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (file photo)

Iran’s Press Supervisory Board has shut down a newspaper apparently over a graphic that depicted the hand of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in connection with a story about rising poverty in the country.

Alaedin Zohourian, the head of the press supervisory board, told the official government news agency IRNA on November 8 that board members had decided to cancel the license of the daily Kelid (Key).

Zohourian did not say whether the decision was final or just temporary. He also didn’t provide any reason for the move.

The Young Journalists' Club, a news site affiliated with Iran’s state broadcaster, said on November 7 that Kelid was being investigated over its front page a day earlier that included a graphic depicting Khamenei’s hand drawing the poverty line.

“Millions of households below the poverty line,” the newspaper said.

The newspaper graphic seemed to clearly depict the supreme leader figuratively drawing the country's poverty line. (composite file photo)
The newspaper graphic seemed to clearly depict the supreme leader figuratively drawing the country's poverty line. (composite file photo)

Criticism of Khamenei, the most powerful political authority in the Islamic republic, is considered a red line.

“Whenever the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran or the true Sources of Emulation are insulted in a publication, its license will be revoked and its responsible manager and the author of that article will be brought before the appropriate court and punished,” Article 27 of Iran’s Press Law says.

In the past, the Press Supervisory Board has revoked the licenses of a number of publications for alleged violations.

In 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the board for engaging in censorship activities.

Iran is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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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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