Uzbek Government Detains Independent German Journalist
Press Release: Uzbek Government Detains Independent German Journalist Another incident in a series of actions to repress free speech in the Central Asian country
For Immediate Release (Washington, DC, November 21, 2016)
On November 10, 2016, German journalist Edda Schlager was detained in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where she was interrogated, and later deported. A freelance journalist, Schlager had been reporting from Central Asia for more than ten years and last visited Uzbekistan in 2008. After the November 10th arrest, she is banned from the country for the next three years. This decision was made in an Uzbek court hearing the day of Schlager’s arrest, where she had no opportunity for legal defense, nor even translation during the trial.
Schlager came to Uzbekistan to speak with her contacts and colleagues about the latest developments in the country. She first reported on child labor in Uzbek cotton fields in 2005, and was visiting to follow up on the general atmosphere in the country as Uzbekistan transitions after former President Karimov’s sudden death.
“It is obvious that Uzbekistan lags behind its neighboring countries in economic terms, that Uzbek society lives in fear and that the country is a police state. Everyone is aware of that; dissidents and civil society activists are constantly threatened by the state and Uzbek citizens wish only one thing: to live their simple lives.” Schlager explains. “On November 10th I ran into trouble and experienced how the repression of unwanted persons in Uzbekistan works – of course, in a more moderate way, since I was still a foreigner.”
Schlager was detained for more than ten hours. The German consul and the Embassy translator were denied entry into the police station to see her for an hour and a half. In the court hearing later that evening, the judge told her: “You are not additionally fined because you’re a woman, our guest and because your father died last year.”
This is not the first incident this year where journalists faced severe repression in Uzbekistan. On October 6th, a group of reporters, including Uzbek photojournalist Timur Karpov, several French journalists and Uzbek human rights activist Elena Urlaeva were detained for monitoring forced and child labor in Buka – the cotton region of Uzbekistan and one of the World Bank’s project areas. The French journalists were released in five hours and managed to avoid the deportation, which some of the foreign embassies and international organizations took as a sign of a “progress” in a repressive regime state. Yet, Timur Karpov spent 10 hours in detention and Elena Urlaeva was beaten and subjected to an invasive body cavity search.
This year's cotton harvest, which launched with a student’s death, has continued with numerous violations of human rights. The Cotton Campaign condemns the unlawful detentions, arrests and ongoing state-orchestrated forced and child labor in cotton perpetrated by the Uzbek government. Tangible reforms are only possible if Uzbekistan allows independent journalists, human rights defenders, and international and local organizations to report on the use of forced labor without fear of reprisals.
CONTACT: Cotton Campaign Coordinator - C/O International Labor Rights Forum, 1634 Eye Street NW, suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. +1(202) 347-4100, cottoncampaigncoordinator [at] gmail.com