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OSCE Finds Barriers To Media's Investigative Rights

An Internet cafe in Iran, where a number of journalists have been arrested (file photo) (AFP) May 2, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Societies have more access to information, but weak laws and prosecution against the media have eroded journalists' investigative abilities.

Those are the findings of a new survey on media access conducted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The OSCE says freedom of information laws are in force in "new democracies" such as Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan, but finds most governments define state secrets too broadly and thereby hide information important for society.

Also today, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Miklos Haraszti, condemned the seven-year prison sentence handed down to Uzbek journalist Umida Niyazova as "cruel."

On May 1, a court in Tashkent sentenced Niyazova for illegal border crossing, carrying contraband, and fostering unrest by spreading material threatening to society. Rights groups say the charges were politically motivated.

Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry defended Niyazova's jailing, saying she had threatened the state by financing nongovernmental organizations with foreign money, AFP reported.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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