The chairwoman of the Paris-based Association of Human Rights for Central Asia says the death in "a traffic accident" of a well-known independent journalist in Uzbekistan "must be thoroughly investigated to assuage all doubts."
Nadezhda Ataeva told RFE/RL by phone on November 8 that 48-year-old Davlatnazar Ruzmetov, aka Davlat Nazar, had told her organization that he had been under secret service surveillance for almost three years before he was hit by a car and killed on November 6 in his native city of Khorezm in western Uzbekistan.
"Taking into account the situation Davlatnazar was facing before his death, his articles revealing corruption among local authorities and illegal forced labor in the region, I can say that it is very likely that his death was not a traffic accident but a disguised assassination," Ataeva said, adding that an "open and transparent investigation with the participation of international organizations would contribute to find out the truth."
Ruzmetov was arrested several times in recent years for his articles.
Ataeva stressed that the region of Khorezm is one of Uzbekistan's worst provinces in terms of human rights and the rule of law.
She noted the recent controversial sentencing of a local blogger in Khorezm, Mahmud Rajab, and the placing of another blogger in the region, Nafosat Olloshukurova, in a psychiatric clinic as examples of the pressure put on journalists seeking to uncover wrongdoing in the region.
According to Ataeva, President Shavkat Mirziyoev, who took over Central Asia's most-populous nation of some 30 million after his predecessor Islam Karimov died in 2016, must do more to improve the situation with press freedom and human rights if he wants his country to be open and attract more global investment.