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Uzbekistan – Defamation campaign against Woman Human Rights Defenders and independent journalists

52 was informed on 7 May 2024 about the defamation and physical attack against Women Human Rights Defenders Umida Niyazova and Sharifa Madrakhimova.

Umida Niyazova is a Uzbekistani woman human rights defender who fled Uzbekistan in 2008 after serving four months in prison on charges related to her human rights work. Now a German citizen, she continues to travel to Uzbekistan to document and monitor labour rights issues. She is the director and founder of the Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, an organization in exile in Germany focusing on human rights and labour rights violations in Uzbekistan. This organization has been monitoring the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan since 2010, along with the impact of agricultural reforms on farmers.
Sharifa Madrakhimova is a Uzbekistani woman human rights defender, journalist, and respected community leader from the Fergana region. As a freelance reporter, she collaborates with various media outlets in Uzbekistan.
On April 30, a pro-government blogger accused the two women human rights defenders of spreading fake news on the country’s human rights situation, and of colluding with “Western powers” against the interests of their own country.

Earlier in April, while they were meeting with farmers and cotton company representatives, the two defenders were harassed and threatened outside of Sharifa Madrakhimova’s home in the Fergana region, preventing them from continuing their advocacy travel. It appears that these attacks are due to the defenders’ independent human rights work.

This is not the first time that independent HRDs, journalists, and Social Organisations representatives in Uzbekistan have been targeted with accusations of harming their country. This has resulted in several cases of harassment, threats, and travel restrictions for defenders in the country.

In this respect, has also received information in the past year regarding the large-scale wave of closure of Telegram news channels in Uzbekistan. After the arrest of three bloggers, six others were suddenly forced to stop their journalistic activities on their Telegram channels in the Southern part of the country, where independent media is often the only source of information. On the same note, we remember the worrying case of Lolagul Kallykhanova, that have been in incommunicado detention since July 1, 2023, because she covered the crackdown on the protests in the Karakalpakstan region.

The country ranks 148/180 on the RSF press freedom index. The crackdown on media freedom and freedom of assembly poses a challenge to the very possibility of a free and pluralistic press and is representative of a state-led progressive erosion of civic space in the country.