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Uzbekistan Urged To Stop Using 'Totalitarian' Practices After Blogger Sent To Psychiatric Clinic

Uzbek blogger Nafosat (Shabnam) Ollashukurova (file photo)
Uzbek blogger Nafosat (Shabnam) Ollashukurova (file photo)

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is urging Uzbekistan to release a blogger critical of public authorities who was placed in a psychiatric center last month.

A court in the western Khorezm region on September 30 ordered Nafosat Ollashukurova to be placed in the regional psychiatric center while she was serving 10 days of administrative arrest, the blogger's mother and news reports say.

Uzbek authorities must "allow all journalists to report freely," Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in a statement on October 8.

"If Uzbekistan wants the world to believe it is serious about reforms, it should not resort to the use of totalitarian practices like forced confinement of journalists in a psychiatric ward," Said added.

Under the name Shabnam Ollashkurova, the blogger runs a Facebook page with more than 4,000 followers in which she covers issues such as allegations of corruption and illegal demolitions by the authorities, according to CPJ and news reports.

On September 23, the Urgench City Administrative Court sentenced Ollashukurova to 10 days in jail for alleged violations, including petty hooliganism and participating in unauthorized assemblies, according to reports.

Three days later, prosecutors reportedly alleged that Ollashukurova has a "mental disorder" and asked the court to place the blogger under psychiatric care.

Her mother, Holjon Davletova, told CPJ that she has not seen or been able to contact her daughter since her arrest. She also accused the authorities of harassing her family "so we don’t speak out against this injustice."

Reports said that, at the time of her arrest, Ollashukurova was documenting a march by journalist and poet Mahmud Rajabov to the capital, Tashkent, to petition authorities to drop a criminal case against him.

Rajabov also received 10 days' administrative arrest for organizing the march, RFE/RL reported.

The Uzbek government "has been slowly implementing social and economic reforms" since President Shavkat Mirziyoev took power three years ago following the death of his predecessor, Islam Karimov, CPJ said.

Regarding press freedom, the New York-based watchdog added that the government has released journalists and unblocked several independent news websites.

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