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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 February, 2004, 15:54 GMT
Bank reviews Uzbek rights record
Officials of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have begun a fact-finding visit to Uzbekistan tied to future credit for the Central Asian state.

The team is due to report on whether the bank should continue lending after allegations of widespread human rights abuses and a lack of media freedom.

The visit coincides with an unusually outspoken programme on state-run Uzbek radio in which commentators lambasted corruption among local officials and deplored the lack of openness in the media.

Panellists blamed local government "avarice" for high unemployment and economic underdevelopment in the regions.

"There is no point in hiding the fact that the current social situation in the country is not worthy of praise," the host, Alisher Nazarov, told listeners.

"This should be blamed on regional officials who live according to the Uzbek rule that one should take advantage of one's position."

A lack of critical reporting in the media was itself also a target of criticism on the programme, with studio guests attacking the press for failing to raise issues of public concern.

Even the mildest criticism of the authorities is rare in a country where the press is under tight state control.

In 2003, the media rights body Reporters Without Borders noted no mention was allowed of topics such as the political opposition, corruption or civil liberties.

"People do not read newspapers since they carry only official information," Uzbek scientist Miraziz Azam said during the discussion.


EBRD delegates in Uzbekistan have also been confronted with opposition complaints over the authorities' failure to register their parties to take part in parliamentary elections later in the year.

Vasila Inoyatova, leader of the illegal Birlik party, told the Associated Press her party's registration application had twice been turned down "groundlessly".

At a meeting with the bank's team, she urged the EBRD to put pressure on the Uzbek authorities on the issue, according to the UzReport web site.

None of the country's four opposition parties has been able to secure recognition, and they will be unable to contest the December parliamentary elections unless their registrations are approved by the 6 April deadline.

The government has denied that it suppresses opposition groups, arguing that all parties which act within the law are allowed to operate.

The EBRD, set up to encourage reform in countries of the former Soviet bloc, is restricted by its mandate to working in countries committed to democracy, human rights and a market economy.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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