On April 1, the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a statement in which it accused the Polish journalist Agnieszka Pikulicka of biased coverage of events around the blogger Miraziz Bazarov, who was beaten on Sunday, and coverage on Twitter of "events that are not really happening."
The statement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is entitled "Is a foreign journalist allowed not to abide by the national laws?"
“We would like to present to your attention the correspondent of Al Jazeera, Agnieszka Pikulicka, who, having passed accreditation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, has been working in our country since February 2021. The journalist has a biased approach to the events that have taken place since March 29 around Miraziz Bazarov, on her page on Twitter where she covered events that had not actually been happening at all," the statement said.
The Interior Ministry cited several of her tweets. In one of the last, dated March 29, she wrote:
“My boyfriend is now being questioned by the security services (he is not a journo/activist but he was with me in the hospital yesterday). That's quite an unfortunate move. Dear security services, you better go after the radicals who are sending ppl death threats.”
“I am aware of his provocations. Still, it’s not a reason to break his leg. Now all the people who visited him in the hospital - and trust me, most of us have reservations about what he says - are being questioned about the LGBT community. My boyfriend came back broken.”
“Darling, I know this for a fact. My friends are being questioned by the security services about gay people. They didn’t called me for questioning just because I’m a foreigner. Believe me, it’s a witch hunt.”
“The security services are now actively searching for gay men. Showing pictures of individuals they suspect of being gay and putting immense pressure on people to give away info about the LGBT community. More people will be questioned tomorrow. This is the new Uzbekistan.”
“Yesterday’s attack on me by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan is an attempt to discredit me as a journalist. If my work really violated 3 articles of the media law, I want to stand trial. If not, I demand public apology from the Ministry.”
“Expressing her disguised hostility and personal feelings, the journalist disseminated information in a number of foreign media outlets as “negative information” about the alleged events in Uzbekistan,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
“But this information is absolutely untrue and is an example of what is aimed at discrediting the law enforcement agencies of our country,” the ministry's press service noted.
“Agnieszka Pikulicka misinterpreted and falsified information, forgetting about her duty to verify the accuracy or falsity of the materials she prepared and to provide objective information. In addition, she abused freedom of the media,” the Interior Ministry said.
“By her actions, the foreign journalist ignored the requirements of Article 6 of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Protection of the Professional Activity of a Journalist”, the Article 7 of the Law of Uzbekistan “On the Principles and Guarantees of Freedom of Information”, as well as the Article 6 of the Law of Uzbekistan “On the Mass Media”, - noted in the statement.
“What is the reason for this woman in the dissemination of information that does not have a truthful basis, being hostility to government agencies, negative, biased information in foreign media about our country? We will return to this issue later,” the Ministry of Internal Affairs concludes.
Agnieszka Pikulicka's stories are published by Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Eurasianet, The Diplomat and other English-language and Polish media. She is also a lecturer at the American Webster University in Tashkent. Some of her most recent works were written for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and are dedicated to people who, after many years of living in Uzbekistan, have finally received the citizenship of the country.
In February, Agnieszka Pikulicka reported harassment by an Uzbek Foreign Ministry official and exerted pressure when trying to obtain accreditation. The Foreign Ministry apologized and announced the dismissal of the employee. She was soon accredited as a correspondent for Al Jazeera.
The Senate Chairperson Tanzila Narbaeva then stated that the incident of harassment "is absolutely unacceptable both in Uzbekistan and in any other country." Komil Allamjonov, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Public Fund for Support and Development of Mass Media, also met with Agnieszka Pikulicka to discuss the incident.