Monday, January 31, 2011 -
Uzbekistan has set up a commission to reform the country’s laws of freedom of speech and information, the Trend news agency reported Saturday.
The initiative follows a special decree by Uzbek President Islam Karimov in November, the news agency cites an unnamed source in the Tashkent government as saying.
Under the process established for such proposals, the new commission will set up expert groups to draft legal amendments and recommendations. Next, the completed legal projects will be submitted to the relevant ministries and agencies for their approval. Then the bills will be forwarded to the lower house of parliament for debate.
Speaking at a parliamentary meeting in November, the Uzbek leader mooted the idea of enacting democratic reforms and creating a civil society to help propel the development in the ex-Soviet state.
Uzbekistan should consider eliminating its economic and editorial restrictions over the mass media and open up state information sources, the news agency reported Karimov as saying at the time.
The official Uzbek Press and Information Agency says that 1,200 media outlets are currently operating throughout the country, of which 124 are websites, according to Trend.
News of the commission’s establishment comes in the wake of the latest Freedom of the World report, release earlier in January by U.S.-based rights group Freedom House.
The annual report showed that political rights and civil liberties in the former Soviet Union (excluding the Baltic states) over the past decade has gone from one decline to another.
"You have one of the most repressive regions in the world in Central Asia, where Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are right at the bottom of our Freedom Index. And Tajikistan also has very low scores,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on January 13 reported Arch Puddington, one of the report’s principal authors, as saying.