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Journalists and photographers gathered near the Uzbekistan embassy in Moscow to protest against the deportation of their colleague Victoria Ivleva and Uzbekistan authorities’ policy towards foreign journalists.
Ivleva, a photojournalist for Novaya Gazeta, was deported from Uzbekistan without explanation on 23 March. She arrived in the country’s capital Tashkent to hold free training courses for her Uzbek colleagues, but was refused permission to enter the country or contact Russian officials and then was put on a flight back to Russia.
Ivleva speculates that she was refused entry because the training was being organised by Umida Akhmedova — a notable local photographer who was charged on “insult and libel against Uzbek nation” after creating a documentary dedicated to women’s rights in Uzbekistan in 2010. But her expulsion could also be due to an article she wrote six years ago. Entitled The Country of Fish the article describes how Uzbek people were humiliated and silenced by the authorities.
Ivleva’s colleagues waited until the beginning of April to hold a protest sanctioned by Moscow’s authorities. They gathered in Uzbek national clothes, with placards saying “A man with a camera is no enemy to the state” and other slogans. They told journalists that people of two countries, that once were fellow citizens, “should not suffer from deportations”.
Uzbek embassy staff did not come out of the building to meet the protesters, but were seen videoing them through the window.
As one of the protesters, Daniil Kislov editor-in-chief of Fergana online media, told journalists that since 2005 Uzbek authorities have banished reporters from all the leading agencies, making the country a “burnt information field”.
Former Novaya Gazeta columnist Victoria Ivleva was deported from Uzbekistan in an incident she believes is linked to her work. Ivleva flew to Tashkent for a photo workshop last Friday, but was not allowed to leave the airport. She was then refused a meeting with the Russian consul and put on a flight back to Russia. Ivleva has said she believes the deportation was linked to an article she wrote almost five years ago about Uzbekistan called The Country of Fish. She has also expressed support for photographer Umida Akhmedova, who was persecuted by the authorities for a photo collection that highlighted gender inequality in Uzbekistan.