Uzbekistan: Space for Freedom of Speech tightens

Dear colleagues, partners, and advocates for freedom of speech,

We, as representatives of the “Birlik” party and “Association of Central Asia”, including our representative office in Uzbekistan, are deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in the realm of human rights and freedom of speech in our country. We would like to particularly draw attention to the fate of Otabek Akhliiddinov, a civil activist and a member of our party, who has been sentenced to 7 years and 1 month of imprisonment.

Otabek Akhliiddinov, as an active participant in civil society and his democratic conviction, visited Sweden in January 2014, where he met with key political figures, including the leader of the Liberal Party, Johan Persson. These meetings reflect his commitment to peace, dialogue and the strengthening of democratic values.

Since the beginning of 2023, we have seen an increase in the punishment and imprisonment of activists: at least 40 journalists and bloggers who covered social issues and expressed highly critical voices have already been jailed or received various types of fines. In light of these events, we call upon the international community, particularly Johan Persson, to use their influence and connections to discuss and take action against these troubling trends.

In August 2023, we sent a special appeal to the government of Uzbekistan, highlighting the increasing trend of threats and arrests of individuals expressing critical views. Such systematic persecution is a clear indication of the worsening conditions for freedom of expression in the country. We urge the responsible authorities to provide transparent information and explanations to the public, rather routine declarations from police and court representatives.

We reiterate our proposal to organize a “Round Table” for a comprehensive discussion on the problems of freedom of speech in Uzbekistan. We are convinced that open dialogue and collective efforts of all interested parties will allow us to achieve significant improvements in the situation and strengthen democratic institutions.

We call upon the government of Uzbekistan to initiate an open and constructive dialogue, listen to the voices of its citizens and the international community, and develop effective mechanisms for improving the conditions of freedom of speech in the country. Such steps will not only strengthen the unity of our people but will also raise the international standing of Uzbekistan and its leadership.

With sincere hope for a change,

Leader of the Birlik Party
Pulat Ahunov

Director of the Representative Office of Association Central Asia in Uzbekistan
Gulnoz Mamarasulova